Mn poetry: Phebe Hanson’s “Crone”

Phebe Hanson, a life-long Minnesotan, has been writing poems since her late forties, after raising three children and a series of foster children. Her teaching experience spans forty years, beginning in a one-room country school, continuing through many years of teaching high school English, and ending with fifteen years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, from which she retired as Associate Professor Emeritus. Sacred Hearts from Milkweed Editions was her first published book. The poem “Crone” comes from her collection of poems “Why Still Dance: 75 Years, 75 Poems.”


Carefuly supported by my sturdy walking stick,

carved by an old Norwegian in Lutsen, I pick my way

down the incline to where waves crash against rocks,

settle myself against a sun-warmed stone that just fits

my body, gives respite for my stiff back. I spread

and lift my billowy skirt to let sun rest tenderly

on winter-paled legs, bend to examine

closely skin on knees and calves,

scored with fine wrinkles I can hardly believe are there,

preferring to believe my legs are unchanged since

childhood, legs hanging happily from monkey bars or

bicycling down country roads as I look for pussy willows.

Lame Deer says our bodies get so wrinkled as we age,

that we begin to look like the rocks themselves and the markings

on my legs do look, I think, like the ones on these ancient glacial rocks,

a thought I find strangely comforting. “Soon I’ll be a crone,”

I say to myself, “an elder with wrinkles and wisdom,

and when even my walking stick can no longer

support my old body, I’ll slide down the path, a gleeful

child again, crawl on the rocks like a baby new to the world,

toward crashing waves and endless sky.”

– “Crone” by Phebe Hanson, as it appears in her collection of poetry Why Still Dance, published by Nodin Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.