Erin Coughlin Hollowell


“Language is fundamental to the possibility of re-wonderment, for language does not just register experience, it produces it.” -Robert MacFarlane

You, the force that pulls

down the old

trees with their

mossed limbs. You,

the wind master. You in the mouth

of the black bear that

stares at a noise beyond

the clearing. The fleas that root

and savor his blood, you. The blue

heron holds you to its ruffling

breast. You, the patter

of spruce needles on the wet

edge of the wind. The wild

strawberry that scrawls across

the dune is you. And you, the deliverer

of rain that scours air with its

insistence. The leaves that spin

and flip are your language. You,

not an idea, not an old man

with a pointed finger. Not just

an engine, a ghost, a lesson, a hum,

but also, you.

To cleave my chest,

to split open my father’s failed heart,

you took time’s knife

and pushed it against

a fault-line,

to upheave, to tip over,

to unhinge.

You, god of undoing

and doing.

To you, I lift my voice.

You, both silence and the grinding

song of the world.



Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s poetry collections Pause, Traveler, 2013, and Every Atom, 2018 are published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. She was awarded two fellowships by the Rasmuson Foundation, the Connie Boochever Award, and the an inaugural Alaska Literary Award. She lives in Alaska, teaches for the University of Alaska Anchorage MFA program and the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. She is the director of Storyknife, a women writers’ retreat.