Poet

As a writer and as a poet especially, Hollis believes that nothing is ever wasted. Any observation or experience, any snippet of conversation, is fair game, and so she is never, ever without a notebook. Worlds can be created with very few words doing double or triple duty until they sing or hurt – or both.

Hollis’ poems (one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize) have been published in multiple journals, including Rattle, Barrow Street, Phoebe, the Ocean State Review, VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), AMS/Cipher Literary Magazine, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine and Root & Star. She is contributing Editor on the Board of Barrow Street Books in New York City.

Hollis studied poetry writing with Sharon Olds (Southampton Writers Conference) and Daniel Hoffman (Penn), and she has Peter Covino to thank for his boundless inspiration and critical eye. She loves doing readings, from the formally organized to the joyful chaos of a slam or an open mic.

Below are some of Hollis’ poems that have been published in print and/or online:

And Now

If butterflies could claw deep, draw
blood, not just light and flutter, then
they would be our conversations, our not
touching, anchors as winds steal pages,
flit and table tilt, our magnet energy and its
skittish opposite; our breath unbreathed.

All sleight of wing and distraction, the
burn and zag turning heads despite
bright blossomed backgrounds, touching
just enough to stir, heal, droplets recalling
pools, occasional oops, never long enough
to wound or unwind, unholy time this time.

 

‘And Now’ (published on Global Poemic, with art work by Eva Mantell)

Oxygen

A machine detecting dye, the parry
padding into the room where he lies,
wordless, feet stilled and arms bound.
His glasses have been removed,
his pockets emptied.  A life fills

those pockets, the tokens and coins,
addresses and appointments. Cash, still.
Hints of barter expired.  I clutch his coat
and dapper hat in my lap, breathing in
deeply, as he cannot, to record his scent.

The apartment chokes on his clutter
and unfinished, unopened, unpaid.
Beyond his windows the not yet sun,
bouncing upward from building angles.
We pace, sit, wait.  Television grates.

From the doorway I see only
sheets and blankets in tangle;
a rise too small to describe
a man.  How many hours ago
had the coughing commenced?

The whoosh of car tires in the rain white
noises our sleep. For one slow moment
the high floor nights return, doormen guarding
our years-of-taking-things-for-granted, so sure
we had a right to that address, to one another.

He was a perfect tweed, a dimpled felt hat,
not yet visored souvenir nor hospital cap.
Lonely yet stately at home, his pride in saving
lives. The city would greet him, “Ah, Doctor,”
not yet tempted to take his elbow or to cry.

When the phone call comes, crumple
and break.      Wait, we’ve not yet
spoken today; wait, take my oxygen;
wait, the policemen called you “sir” in the
middle of the night, carrying you back to bed.

Wait.

‘Oxygen’ (Intima, Fall 2018)

In her May 2020 article on the Intima Crossroads blog, Sophia Wilson quotes Oxygen extensively.

February On the Herengracht*

Snow,
not the kind that heralds frozen waterways,
an eleven-city race on skates, but a change
on the cheek, a white sky smile.
Slow mist and snow, gulls
glissade low over the canals,
grey-on-grey then gone.

Curtains
wide onto feathered white, lacing
branch by branch into city time.
To be consumed by this pale
portrait, where all is stillness
save for our two forms, slow, slow
under layers of white then gone.

‘February On the Herengracht*’ (Cipher/AMS, October 2018)

 

   

Photos by Hollis Kurman

* Canal in central Amsterdam

The farm

In fits and starts, births and afterbirths,
there was blood in the grass that year.

Later, she would remember everything
but the news; adventures need endings.

The waitresses called her honey and pretended
to serve her coffee while everyone else pretended

that things were as they always were, or at least,
as they wished things had been and might be again.

In their shared, cramped, close room at night,
she spied her mother’s naked outline under

a sheer nightgown. Why a sheer nightgown here,
now? Was her brother already asleep?

Had they been informed while out walking,
cicadas hammering along the narrow path,

crunch of small feet in dry grass? We won’t be
sharing the bed we never shared, anymore.

Her mother had geared up for this non-conversation,
for this cluster bomb and its legacy of delayed

explosions; rehearsed as one might an unreasonable
request, before mirrors, at steering wheels, alone.

They too had had their weekend wake-up rituals,
the climbing in, the gambolling, but it was first the one

then the other, one pillow each. She could feel
the flaw in their private permutations, even then.

No one is equipped to deal with gone, and
part-time arrangements feed on blame for balance.

They worked out the standard deviation by themselves,
little by little, through lack of lines on classroom forms.

Much later, she realized that they had been not two,
but three, children on the farm that year, making steps up

as they went along, forging ahead because
forging goes only in one direction.

‘The Farm’ – nominated for a Pushcart Prize (The Ocean State Review, OSR vol. 6 nr. 1)

Cacao

There are mornings when the city still
smells of chocolate, inchoate, industrial.

No one notices. Yet many find themselves
suddenly slipping, talking of other gone things,

lovers or songs or shops, stopping
by the bakery, fishing in their pockets

or staring out the window, without
knowing why. They might breathe in

a little more deeply, just on their way.
When you inquire, shopkeepers nod,

the movement a mnemonic.
It is not talked about, but some say

there was an accident, a melting,
a pouring, a certain chill to the cast,

a powder, time-released in a blast,
now a random hint in the wind.

All know of someone who may have
worked there once, a man in a hat,

or a woman who was someone’s.

‘Cacao’ (VIA/ Voices in Italian Americana, vol. 22, Spring 2011 [pdf])

Scavenger Hunt

And at the end of the day
we felt we knew him less.

We’d started with objects
and foibles gathering dust.

The Oriental Lady with chipped fingers.
The Empire Globe fallen on its axis.
The Bronze Monkeys among more monkeys.
The Wooden Boxes with their cacophony of cufflinks.

The photos of smiling women.
The pens and prescriptions, filled and unfilled.
The eyeglass cases housing collar stays.
The glowing, gushing letters.

With fresh purpose we mined
the pockets, the pocketed.

Matchbooks,
dinner mints,
crumpled tissues,
bus transfers,

phone numbers,
divorce decrees,
verboten photos,
envelopes fat with cash.

Pocket vaults,
tucked enough to harbor
ex-wives, army lives,
unsavory alliances.

But there was no
chamber lost enough

for traces of us.
His children.

‘Scavenger Hunt’ (Rattle, #17, Summer 2002)

Poets & Writers from the Sewanee Writers Conference:
Charles Martin, Erin McGraw, Andrew Hudgins (American Book Center https://abc.nl/, Amsterdam, March 2016)