Erin Coughlin Hollowell lives and teaches in Cordova, Alaska. She is a graduate of Cornell University and is currently working on her MFA through the Rainier Writing Workshop in Washington. She has recently been published in various places including Alaska Quarterly Review, Cairn, Inside Passages, and Rainy Day Magazine. In 2004, she was commissioned by the University of Alaska to write poems which were turned into a full-length theater production entitled Bedsheets featured in the Alaska Humanities Forum Conference in 2005.
Heads bent all morning over the bucket,
we added water from the rain barrel and
stirred with a stick until the mud swirled
smooth and slick. Two small grimy hedge
witches, we crouched inhaling the dark tang
of decay, and painted the grass and marked
our faces with the carefully mixed concoction.
If hours passed, we did not notice for we were
Indians, we were horses, we were pirates,
we were birds daubed with dirt up in trees.
Anything possible, we shed personalities
with aplomb. Shifting from one lifetime to
another, our child limbs supple with change,
we did not hesitate to dance or shout out.
Now March mud inspires a frown, a brush
from cuff and shoe. We scowl at the dog for
rousting about the yard and roiling up the
grass. No longer malleable, we see through
a narrow slot, separate the world into this good
and that bad. Time has us in her hand. And though
we imagine we control our lives, this false spring
breath of soil released, this churning underfoot,
is enough to unhinge us from our frozen lives.
The morning that I dedicate myself
to looking at the world more closely,
I wake to find everything covered by fog.
The nearest cherry tree still holds
hard fists of green fruit. Its neighbor,
five feet further away turns in tatters.
Spruce trees become towering shadows,
brooding on a vague gray horizon
only twenty paces beyond the back door.
Somewhere a dog lifts his voice
to solitary song, anonymous,
reduced to long lone vowels.
In the kitchen, the coffee rattles and hisses
before the empty white cup. The plate
awaits the toast.