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American Life in Poetry

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.


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.

Poem copyright 2011 by Andrea Hollander from “Landscape With Female Figure: new and selected poems, 1982-2012” (Autumn House Press, 2013), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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