Boundaries | Erin Coughlin Hollowell

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Erin Coughlin Hollowell is a poet and writer who lives at the end of the road in Alaska. Prior to landing in Alaska, she lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns, pursuing many different professions from tapestry weaving to arts administration. In 2013, Boreal Books published her first collection Pause, Traveler. Her second collection Every Atom is forthcoming in April 2018 from the same publisher. She has been awarded two Rasmuson Foundation Fellowships, a Connie Boochever Award, and an Alaska Literary Award. Her work has been most recently published in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Sugar House Review, and was a finalist for the 49th Parallel Contest for the Bellingham Review. She teaches in the University of Alaska Anchorage Low-Residency MFA Program and is on the core-faculty of the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. 



The boundaries of a living body are open and indeterminate; more like membranes than barriers, they define a surface of metamorphosis and exchange. (David Abram)

Along the strand, our footsteps traced
the setting sun’s arc and then turned to bring

us back towards the dunes’ endless susurration,
away from the ocean’s endless susurration.

There above the afternoon’s high tide line
we found a huddled clump of bird, black and white

feathers smudged with sand, beak towards
the sea and chest opened to the sky where stars

began to spark in the expanding blue. Chest
plundered of almost everything but the marvelous

arc of bone spanning the shadow space.
And what could I do but kneel beside it?

To marvel at the perfection of its form, lyre
that only sang inside, now exposed to air,

reddened with blood and sunset. What

could I do but wonder at its emptiness.

In honesty, to take out my camera and capture
the ceremony of its crumpled form. And when I

look now at the picture. When I remember
the last time I saw my father in his casket.

When I want to go down on my knees
and search for the scrawl of my god, any

god, in all of it. I think of the crabs and the gulls,
and what a bitter and sustaining meal a heart makes.