Letter to America by Erin Coughlin Hollowell

One Poem

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Dear America,

Dear Prairie Dog Town, Dear Corn Palace, Dear Largest Potato in the World,

Dear worn-out sneakers,

Dear Little Gem Diner windows covered with condensation from a hundred conversations and three stale pots of coffee at 2 a.m.,

Dear giant wood roaches that press their bodies onto the hot pavement after dark in a parking lot behind a community theater in Macon, Georgia,

Dear red apples in the hands of three children getting on the subway at 135th Street Station,

Dear statue of the Virgin Mary in a rusted out bathtub in the front yard,

Dear empty coffee mug on the desk of a woman still working in her cubicle at 3 a.m.,

Dear grocery carts, Dear pecans, Dear rhythmic tick of sprinklers on golf-courses,

Dear old roan mare carrying a teenage girl who wants to go to college and become a doctor,

Dear glacier missing the snow but insisting on blue shine even under persistent grey clouds,

Dear canvas jacket on the man nurturing the bougainvillea vine along the top of his unattached garage, his wife in the kitchen singing over dinner,

Dear bougainvillea with its blossoms like the memory of a first dance,

Dear origami cranes folded by a dancer visiting an arctic village after another suicide,

Dear old communist in his favorite threadbare grey cardigan opening up his bookstore with its shelves full of writing by Shakespeare and Milton and other long dead white guys,

Dear plastic bags on the feet of the woman sitting behind the Quick Stop on the turnpike,

Dear half-built house with an ocean view whose yard is subsiding into the sea,

Dear huckleberry milkshake sitting on a picnic table in Paradise, Montana,

Dear young man with the new snow machine that he bought with his summer salmon fishing wages,

Dear Trump signs in the yard of a big house where a tired man unloads a lawnmower out of his 1982 dented, once-red Chevy pick-up,

Dear jewel-green moss growing on the side of a fence in front of a mobile home on a back-road in Oregon, Dear goat cheese for sale, Dear thrown away folding chair,

Dear caskets, Dear malls, Dear AK-15s,

Dear mason jar of water on the porch next to the woman who just hoed twenty rows of beans,

Dear eagles on their nest above the front-end loader scraping the ground beneath their cottonwood tree,

Dear sound of pebbles being tumbled in surf,

Dear key-card being slipped back into the pocket as the elevator goes up fifty-eight flights,

Dear charred chili pepper, Dear Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store, Dear snow shovel,

Dear library book drop,

Dear brown bear sleeping in her den, cubs two months from being born,

Dear sunrise, relentless and shifting,

When will we open our eyes to our fellow travelers? When will we see?

one small person at the end of the road




Erin Coughlin HollowellErin Coughlin Hollowell is a poet and writer who lives at the end of the road in Alaska. Prior to landing in Alaska, she lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns, pursuing many different professions from tapestry weaving to arts administration. In 2013, Boreal Books published her first collection Pause, Traveler. She has been awarded a Rasmuson Foundation Fellowship, a Connie Boochever Award, and an Alaska Literary Award. Her work has been most recently published in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Sugar House Review, and was a finalist for the 49th Parallel Contest for the Bellingham Review.
Read poetry by Erin Coughlin Hollowell previously appearing in Terrain.org.

Header photo origami crane by Counsellor, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Erin Coughlin Hollowell courtesy Erin Coughlin Hollowell.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.