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Andrea Hollander: Arkansas to Oregon

I kept the radio tuned

to the oldies stations,

one after another,

and sometimes, if I was lucky,

I’d hear “Blackbird”

or “I Want to Hold Your Hand,”

or another song I once loved.

I’d sing it loud

as if every word was mine.

This was the last day of my first

long drive on my own,

and I hoped not to stop

if I didn’t have to, hoped

I could stay awake and alert

all the way to Portland.


For days I’d managed

to find music I could sing with,

even though I can’t sing.

Or won’t, if anybody else

might hear. But then,

at the western edge of Idaho,

the music fizzled into static.

I turned off the radio.

Wished I had CDs.

An iPod. Anything except

the nothing I had.


The sound of the highway

can lull you like nothing else.

Without music the pain won’t let go

even though the landscape changes.

It keeps gaining on you.


Everywhere I looked everything

was brown. Gray-brown, to be precise.

Gray-brown hillside after hillside,

all of them vacant of trees.

The roadsides gray-brown, too,

and the highway itself. The sky

even grayer, browner, the way I felt

when I wasn’t singing.


Soon the car would take me

through the mountains

and over the icy pass

and I’d be out of one state

into another. Geographically,

I mean. Trouble is

there would be no music

in the mountains.

I’d go it alone.

The way I’d been

going it and going it.

That’s the way it’s done:

You turn on your radio. Try

singing your pain gone.


Copyright 2018 Andrea Hollander

Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011, after many years in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she ran a bed & breakfast for 15 years and served as the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Hollander’s 5th full-length poetry collection, Blue Mistaken for Sky, is due from Autumn House Press in September 2018. Her 4th was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her 1st won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Hollander’s many other honors include the Vern Rutsala Award, an Oregon Literary Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts.

3 comments on “Andrea Hollander: Arkansas to Oregon

  1. atenni
    July 3, 2018

    Brilliant as always, Andrea. You thought you were alone, but you had me sitting in that car with you, crowded in with the other readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jfrobb
    July 2, 2018

    Wow! One of those times when I’m amazed by words put together in just the right way. Many thanks.
    In keeping with the thread of comments, my son moved from Ashland (a lovely spot) to Portland. A place he tells me is good for lots of things. For you, too, I hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. M.A. Sinnhuber
    July 2, 2018

    Beautiful, Andrea. I wish you health, wealth and happiness in Portland. I have a son in Ashland, OR. Next time I’m out there, I’ll look you up. xoxo M.A.

    Liked by 1 person

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