Poetry Collection Takes On Mother-Daughter Strife

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Poet Jodie Hollander
Poet Jodie Hollander lives in Avon, Colo.

Poet Jodie Hollander wants her work to be accessible to readers. She says a lot of today's poetry is hard to decipher but it doesn't have to be that way.

Hollander, who lives in Avon, Colo., spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis about her new collection of poems "My Dark Horses."

Hollander's poetry, which focuses a lot on her troubled relationship with her family, especially her mother, is a series of vignettes with wrenching descriptions of a mother obsessed with the superficial and lacking in empathy.

Hollander grew up in a family of musicians and says musicality is an important part of her work. She uses musical techniques to put stresses on syllables in her poetry.

"My Dark Horses" will be released on Sept. 1.

Read poetry from "My Dark Horses"

A Box

All those years

of trying to understand

which of this is her,

which of this is me?

Getting at the truth

was always so confusing

amidst her craziness;

how to separate?

And though the shrink said

Put her in a box

I never quite could

until that Saturday

when the doorbell rang:

and there stood a man

thin and bedraggled,

dripping in the rain.

He held a clipboard,

a small warped box,

containing my mother

or rather her remains.

Sign here, he said,

and handed me the box.

Funny how this came

surprisingly unbidden,

though I’ve often wondered

if in a weak moment

I didn’t wish for this.

But now that it’s here

what am I to do

except to hold it close,

feel its roughness

up against my cheek,

smell that terrible smell

of factory cardboard

now finally between us.

My Dark Horses                       

If only I were more like my dark horses,

I wouldn’t have to worry all the time

that I was running too little and resting too much.

I’d spend my hours grazing in the sunlight,

taking long naps in the vast pastures.

And when it was time to move along I’d know;

I’d spend some time with all those that I’d loved,

then disappear into a gathering of trees.

If only I were more like my dark horses,

I wouldn’t be so frightened of the storms;

instead, when the clouds began to gather and fill

I’d make my way calmly to the shed,

and stand close to all the other horses.

Together, we’d let the rain fall round us,

knowing as darkness passes overhead

that above all, this is the time to be still.

The Last Breakfast

One last time, breakfast with my mother:

a small plate of clouded-over eggs,

two cups of cold, watery coffee.

Neither one of us is very hungry,

but we eat anyway, chewing carefully,

quietly swallowing the little food between us.

We do not speak—what is there to say

when the doctors already say it: any day now

she’s going to fall asleep and never wake up.

I wonder why my mother isn’t crying

for all the things in life she’s going to miss?

I watch her bite into the chalky yolk,

wipe her lips gently with a napkin.

I want to ask if she’s ever coming back,

and what am I supposed to do without her?

But instead the waitress suddenly arrives,

puts the bill between us on the table.

We haven’t even finished—now I’m crying.

My mother is no longer eating. Never mind,

she says, slipping on her long black coat:

Nothing can be done, cancer has come,

she whispers—Now, finish your breakfast.

reprinted from My Dark Horses by Jodie Hollander with permission of Liverpool University Press. Copyright (c) Jodie Hollander, 2017.