Hollis Robbins

Hollis Robbins
Hollis Robbins teaches literature, poetry, and aesthetics at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Her poems have appeared recently in Per Contra, Boston Literary Magazine, Mastodon Dentist, and Bridges, a Jewish Feminist Journal. Her most recent scholarly article is a study of census politics in William Wordsworth’s “We are Seven” (1798), published in English Language Notes 48.2. She is the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of the poet Frances E.W. Harper’s 1892 novel Iola Leroy (2010).

Neshoba County Library

Up to the counter a colored boy I knew
Stumbled, gasping—clammy and pale he said
"Don't call my momma," threw up bitter streams
Of porridge strangely flecked with bits of blue.
On my knees, I stroked his bowed head
Saw bits of writing in the pulpy cream.
'Dumbledore' was legible on one
Crumpled scrap that grimly floated on.
He whimpered as he saw my hesitation.
His father is the preacher. There's no law
That dictates what a man can't feed his son
Unless it be a documented poison.
He asked for water; I gave him some and saw
Him to the bus. Lord, Thy will be done.


According to the pamphlets I might not
Remember all the things I say or do
When I've been drinking hard, but it's not true:
It's easier to say that I forgot.
The truth is that I do recall but in
The ragged lexicon of lost control
Staggering at the edge of that black hole
Where history goes, and expiated sin.  
When I was young my father wrote his name
In knife or pen on everything in sight
Or blindly stumbled over in the night:
All his realm was autographed and claimed.
A trace of his identity remains
Underneath a map of whiskey stains.