by Julie Carroll

—After Jack Gilbert’s “Finding Something”

I’m seven as I stand in the musty basement of a 1970s split-level.
The colonial-blue high-pile carpet and wood paneling mute
what light comes in from outside and all the bulbs are burnt out.
With trampoline-furniture that’s far past its prime, our childhood
haven is disheveled by intense games: Hide-and-Seek, Bumper
Cushions, Teddy Bear Tag. My cousin lies on the padded weight
bench in front of me, leering as he directs me to turn from front to rear.
I’m numb as I lower my cotton panties with my thumb and his head
and neck crane upward to watch the spill—out and over the tip.
He is ten years old; his black irises hollow.
The younger one is there too; a ghost.
So sad and lonely to play a part in it.
My insides ping like the robin’s must: the one who built her nest
in the split-level’s chimney flue while outside we banged and slapped
on the pipe.

Julie Carroll is a family-centered West Virginia native who's called WNC "home" since 2007. She's a speech-language pathologist who fills her heart by reading, traveling, and playing in the dirt.

About Hollow—This poem, my first experience in studying and writing poetry, was written as an exercise in imitation. Borrowing from Mr. Gilbert’s form allowed me to focus on the stark feeling of this childhood experience.