Richard Speakes’s Hannah’s Travel is a collection of poems linked by narrative and theme and told in sequence. Set in 1851–52 between Macune, Missouri, and Ft. Laramie, Wyoming, all are told by Speakes’s arresting heroine Hannah. Not only do these poems comprise one lyric poem that works as a whole; they stand on their own and behave like single entities as well. The syntax is a bit formal to our ears—this conveys both a sense of an earlier colloquial range and of the formality used by a verbal person without verbal education to match her natural talent. These poems are about the men with whom Hannah will set out on an adventure, and her stories of what they hope and fear to find.
The full text of Richard Speakes’s Hannah’s Travel is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. You may also purchase a copy of the book.
May 10, 1852
St. Joe, Missouri
Then they settled into stories
& they made the fires dance.
A bottle in the hand, Barton
swore Nebraska’s steep—
if they be neighborly the men
would show him kindness, ease
the labor of his oxen,
to drink & turn his wagon light.
I drank my brandy in tea as the oxen
nodded their blunt heads, their thanks
lolled in thick-tongued silence.
But the men,
their stories each a heave on the rope
men tie to what they want,
they talked on & drank they would coil
Nebraska’s length behind them. Now
they were all working together remembering
what they’d done when need be,
& near midnight, like a gigantic stump
in the field, the Rockies tore
loose & into view, approached
the pace the moon draws night.
Just a few more words, just
one more story . . .
Copyright © 1982 by Richard Speakes
Richard Speakes received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Washington, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College. He currently teaches English at Santa Rosa Junior College in California.