American Life in Poetry: Column No. 472

American Life in Poetry: Column No. 472

U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006

What might have been? I’d guess we’ve all asked that at one time or another. Here’s a fine what-might-have-been poem by Andrea Hollander, who lives in Portland, Ore.

Ex

Long after I married you, I found myself

in his city and heard him call my name.

Each of us amazed, we headed to the café

we used to haunt in our days together.

We sat by a window across the paneled room

from the table that had witnessed hours

of our clipped voices and sharp silences.

Instead of coffee, my old habit in those days,

I ordered hot chocolate, your drink,

dark and dense the way you take it,

without the swirl of frothy cream I like.

He told me of his troubled marriage, his two

difficult daughters, their spiteful mother, how

she’d tricked him and turned into someone

he didn’t really know. I listened and listened,

glad all over again to be rid of him, and sipped

the thick, brown sweetness slowly as I could,

licking my lips, making it last.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Copyright © 2011 by Andrea Hollander from her most recent book of poems, Landscape with Female Figure: new and selected poems, 1982-2012 (Autumn House Press, 2013). Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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