American Life in Poetry: Column 472
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
What might have been? I’d guess we’ve all asked that at one time or another. Here’s a fine what-might-have-been poem by Andrea Hollander, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Long after I married you, I found myself
in his city and heard him call my name.
Each of us amazed, we headed to the café
we used to haunt in our days together.
We sat by a window across the paneled room
from the table that had witnessed hours
of our clipped voices and sharp silences.
Instead of coffee, my old habit in those days,
I ordered hot chocolate, your drink,
dark and dense the way you take it,
without the swirl of frothy cream I like.
He told me of his troubled marriage, his two
difficult daughters, their spiteful mother, how
she’d tricked him and turned into someone
he didn’t really know. I listened and listened,
glad all over again to be rid of him, and sipped
the thick, brown sweetness slowly as I could,
licking my lips, making it last.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Copyright © 2011 by Andrea Hollander from her most recent book of poems, Landscape with Female Figure: new and selected poems, 1982-2012 (Autumn House Press, 2013). Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.