This week, I had a poem publication that is especially “sweet”. My poem “In The Hollow” appeared on Sweet: A Literary Confection’s stunning new website, which alone would be meaningful enough to warrant a “pinch me” reaction. Add that to the fact that my poem is featured alongside another writer I feel like I virtually know, and admire greatly — Han Vanderhart, who has exchanged poems with me and provided wonderful feedback over the years. Then add to that the reality that I’ve been working on this poem for years, then to that, the fact I was able to share this poem with my 91-year-old cousin, who figures in the background of this poem in an important way…and you can see why I have feelings about this.
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When I was six months in my mother’s womb, my parents moved to the small town of Salisbury, N.C., after my father took a job as chaplain at Catawba College there in his first job out of divinity school. Their apartment wasn’t ready yet, so my mom’s aunt and uncle, my great-uncle Fred and my great-aunt Elizabeth Stanback, let them stay in the family cabin, known as Frog Hollow. Fred and his son, my mom’s cousin, Fred, Jr., built that cabin many years ago.
I’ve been back only once (physically) in all the years that have ensued; my mom’s two first cousins, who remained in Salisbury all their lives, took my husband and I there soon after we were married and drove up to Salisbury so I could introduce my husband to the family. But many times I have returned in my mind to Frog Hollow, intrigued by what happens in our lives as we develop in the womb, and the imprinting that occurs then, and how that affects us all of our lives.
“In The Hollow” builds on a metaphor of house as vehicle of confinement, which is also a mother’s womb. Writing this poem during the COVID-19 pandemic gave me another perspective of confinement, which I wove into the poem.
My mother’s first cousin, Fred Jr., is still very much a presence in Salisbury, and I have been so fortunate to have had special relationships with many of my Stanback cousins and their families over the years. Salisbury will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Although I am not sure I will ever go to Frog Hollow again in the flesh, I will carry it always inside of me. You can read and listen to me read the poem here.