“A Story about the Heart,” “Betrayals,” and “Bed,”
by Andrea Hollander

[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published July 14, 2019.]


A Story About the Heart

In the beginning I trusted
its fearless turning
and I followed.

But the heart thins 
with each disappointment,
twists in on itself.

Then it flies out like the owl 
that slammed into the windshield
the evening I was at the wheel
bearing his silence again.

We stopped the car, lifted
the still owl from the asphalt,
one of its eyes stuck open.

Even then he refused to speak.
All night he kept his back
rigid beside me. I thought of the owl
stiffening on the roadside,
and I could not sleep.

My heart turned inward,
a tympani of fear, his—
even as he slept—
a snake in striking distance,

its teeth all eyeteeth, its venom 
seething in the wound.

And in the morning
more white space between us—
Cassandra with her mouth closed.

So I dared to open my own throat
opened it but could not speak.

When he finally spoke,
saving the worst for last,
my heart, a hole at its core,

like that owl
struck without warning,

fell and fell

and was lifted for a moment

then left on the pavement,
even its shadow scavenged.


From Blue Mistaken for Sky (Autumn House Press, 2018) and reprinted here with permission of the press. First published in Sou’wester (Spring 2014).



At least my father did not betray anyone.
It was the plaque in his brain that betrayed him.

As for my ex—well, time passes, and I see
how some take what they need and even manage 

to believe the lies they tell. That’s as far as I’d go,
if I were writing about him.

Others don’t know they’re speaking falsehoods. 
The year before his diagnosis, Dad began

to introduce himself as if he were still Lieutenant
Colonel Hollander, as if the next 40 years 

had never happened. Perhaps plaque is so hungry
it eats away memory scores at a time.

It was summer and he stood at the front door 
in his winter coat and hat watching something 

through the little rectangular window.
Traffic? Children at the crosswalk?

Birds in the old cherry tree on the front lawn 
we didn’t know had been slowly dying? 

My marriage was like that, despite its profusions 
of blooms. None of us knew how soon that tree

would thud down during a late summer storm, 
the tips of its branches scratching the front door, 

my father’s face framed in its window,
the few words he still knew—

hollow little grunting sounds, really—
escaping from his throat like birds. 


From Blue Mistaken for Sky (Autumn House Press, 2018) and reprinted here with permission of the press. First published in Vox Populi (Summer 2018).




I don’t mind lying down at night
by myself, don’t mind the absence
on the other side or the fact 
of being alone. I don’t even mind 
that the man who used to 
occupy that space chose to lie
in other women’s beds. I like 
that now I can stretch
all the way out, my body
in perfect proportions,
as if I were as balanced
as a planet in the cosmos.

Sometimes when I lie down
I think of the 35 years
of beds we shared, that first
foam mattress on the floor
of the attic room, the rent so cheap
we didn’t complain 
about the mice tittering all night
in the ceiling and walls. The perfect
Posturepedic we saved up for
and kept for years, the antique iron frame 
I painted outdoors, only to discover later 
the tiny damselfly imbedded 
in the bar I grabbed during sex, 
a death held tight in my grasp. 

Now all the pillows are mine
and the cool place where the top sheet
touches the bottom on the side
that used to be his. 
When I want that coolness, 
I take it. No other body in the way,
no one else to be careful not
to disturb when I wake at 4 a.m.
And if I can’t get back to sleep, I can
turn on the bedside lamp and read, 
listen to late-night jazz on the radio,
then sleep as long as I damn well please.

Yet some mornings, rising alone
from the bed I bought when he left,
in the flat I found when I sold the house,
in a room he’ll never see—
before I open my eyes, despite myself, 
I reach for him. 


From Blue Mistaken for Sky (Autumn House Press 2018) and reprinted here with permission of the press. First published in Cloudbank 12 (Summer 2018).



Last night I set the dining room table
he’s never seen. He’s never seen
this apartment or the street where I live.

Or me without the thirty-five pounds
I lost after the divorce—one pound
for each of our years together.

I took out the good silver and the Wedgewood 
we never used. I ate by candlelight
alone. I didn’t mind. I didn’t miss him.

The river light brightened as the moon rose.
I watched that. Breathed in the fruity redolence
of the chardonnay. Sipped. I ate a chicken breast 

marinated in champagne and limes. I ate white rice
and fresh green beans from my neighbor’s garden.
I ate alone and wanted nothing. 

I didn’t raise my glass. I did the one chore 
that used to be his. I liked the sound
of the rinse water as I lifted the plate 

from the suds, the little clink as I set it 
into the dish drainer, the hum of the wine glass 
as I wiped it dry. I know now where the mind 

can take you when you stand by yourself 
in the kitchen after a good meal. 
Whatever comes next will happen anyway. 


From Landscape with Female Figure: New & Selected Poems, 1982 – 2012 (Autumn House Press 2013) and reprinted here with permission of the press. First published in Spillway 20 (Summer 2013).


Listen to the poet reading her work here

Read interviews with the author here and here, and reviews of her work here, here, and here.



Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011, after many years in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, where she ran a bed & breakfast for fifteen years and served as the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for twenty-two. In Portland, she conducts writing seminars and tutorials in her home. Hollander’s fifth full-length poetry collection, Blue Mistaken for Sky, was released in September 2018 by Autumn House Press. Blue Mistaken for Sky is available for purchase here. Her fourth, Landscape with Female Figure: New and Selected Poems, 1982 – 2012 (Autumn House Press 2013), was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and her first, House Without a Dreamer (Story Line Press 1993), won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Hollander’s many other honors include two Pushcart Prizes (in poetry and literary nonfiction), two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship, the Runes Poetry Award, the Ellipsis Prize, the Vern Rutsala Award, an individual artist fellowship from Literary Arts of Oregon, and two poetry fellowships from the Arkansas Arts Council. Her work is included in dozens of textbooks, anthologies, and literary journals. Her website is. Author photo credit: Brooke Budy.


Poet’s Note

I lived for most of my 35-year marriage in the woods of Arkansas’s Ozark Mountains and subsequently, during the eight years since my divorce, in downtown Portland, Oregon. The contrast between the kind of life I lived in that forest and my present one in this city parallels, for me, the additional contrast between married life and living on my own. Poetry speaks, in part, the language of place—exterior, interior, and especially the intersection where the outer and inner come together, that vital third place that is evoked, sometimes subtly, in these poems, which focus on my journey from the woods to the city and from marriage to divorce and beyond.

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