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Poem: The Holler

from our poet of the month: Eugene Gloria

Man in the fog on a dock

Getty/ SanderStock

"I must write her a note of glad tidings / with tidbits of nostalgia instead of our grief"


I’m opening up & then shutting down
        Why this compulsion to tell everyone
when I should keep it zipped

Why tattle to the dentist who expects
         nothing more than good hygiene
Why, oh why, tell the manicurist

& her blind husband typing in braille
         to his pretty cousin Thuy
who read my lips & sang

Why is he bothering us with this
         Grateful for dreams, I dreamt of my sister
wearing a chador & living in Kansas

I must write her a note of glad tidings
         with tidbits of nostalgia instead of our grief
Death, she learned, is an accomplishment

a wafer of sun the sky took for Communion
         & the labor of water is transforming
the human body into spittle in the wind

The keep, the culvert, the crawl space
         the circular breathing, the water phone
the mother dead, dear dead

How remote the spirit feels this finale
         How best to submit my thesis as my final final
Acknowledging that my mother is done, kaput

Let’s not get cross, I tell her. Let’s get pissed
         Celebrate all that’s still wet in Kansas
Is that OK with you? Two of us sailing along

among the drones locked in their labors
         Maybe we’re all in need of pampering
My students, poor saps, feeling sentimental

about leaving this old place for the known world
         I envy them for the promises they keep
the rebel holler they harbor in their hearts

Who wouldn’t want to be them
         seasick, uncompassed sailors

Listen to Gloria read The Holler:

Insight shared with S&H from Eugene Gloria:

"This poem examines the limitations of language and, for me as a poet, the challenges in locating the appropriate words to express grief. I wrote this poem not long after my mother died. How best do we bear this communal sorrow without sentimentality?"

From SIGHTSEER IN THIS KILLING CITY by Eugene Gloria, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. © 2019 by Eugene Gloria.

More Poetry:

Eugene Gloria's Apron and In The Andes

By Eugene Gloria. Click here for more!

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