Poetry: Katherine Hollander
GENERAL STRIKE, BERLIN 1920
Like a painting by a Dutch artist,
Vermeer or Rembrandt.
Van Gogh: “The Turnip Eaters.”
They pause, motionless, a tableau
in the dark apartment. Outside,
the street is an unlit hallway.
The tall lamps hang their heads
like tired horses.
Inside, the unseen wallpaper
is soft against the walls.
The room swims in darkness.
A man, a woman, a girl.
At home all day, they have been shy
with each other, unused to idleness.
They have read the paper, talked
a little. Now the woman stands
at the stove, one burner on,
a blue water lily of light.
In the pot, the stew is rich and black.
The man sits at the table,
his hands open like gray gloves.
The girl lifts a dish and light
licks its edge like a tongue of oil.
She passes the dish to her mother.
The woman fills it with the black stew.
The man lifts his spoon like a beacon.
FOR MY BROTHER
I was ten, you were none.
You were red and warm
as a loaf of meat, and
somebody had bandaged you,
like a wound. I sat inside
the black teepee of my hair
with you in my arms. Your
parents weren’t your
parents, that was for sure.
You were from another world.
Your eyes were dark
and unfocused, like sapphires.
Some one is going to hurt you,
I whispered, but I won’t let them.
KATHERINE HOLLANDER’s poems and criticism have appeared in or are
forthcoming from AGNI Online, Pleiades, Salamander, Sugar House Review,
Verse, and others. She holds a master’s degree in creative writing
from Boston University, where she is now a PhD student in European
history, and has enjoyed residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and
the Brecht House in Denmark. Her manuscript, ‘My German Dictionary,’
was a finalist for the Four Ways Books Intro Prize and in 2009, she
won the Schmuel Traum Prize in Literary Translation for her work with
the poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler. She is now working on a libretto for a
composer at the University of Oregon.