Polly Johnson’s Holler

Down in Polly Johnson’s Holler, a two hour hike from here

Just when you reach the long lost village of the ancient pioneers

You’ll know it by the long, tall grasses

Empty houses with a vacant stare

But by the side of that abandoned mountain

Grow the sweetest kind of berries there

And if you battle the brambles, and give it your best

The birds will get the sweetest ones, but you’ll get all the rest.


Three or four abandoned houses, a pantry and a barn

Who built these houses and then left them looking so forlorn?

With tobacco handing in the rafters

Squash and beans on the pantry shelf?

I’d run away and hide out in this holler

But when you’re grown you can’t run from yourself

Still I’d live off these berries, and I’d give it my best

And the birds might get the sweetest ones, but I’d have all the rest.


Rough-hewn logs, a little mortar oozing in between

Plastered with some old newspapers from nineteen-seventeen

News of Europe’s war, a distant rumble

Hints of changes in a mirrored glass

How it freezes time in one still moment

When your life is papered with the past

It’s here they battled the brambles, here they gave it their best

And the birds would get the sweetest ones, but they had all the rest.


A wooden spoon, an old tin pitcher, a jar of berry jam

Crack the lid and dip my finger, transported where I am

You leave a legacy of stone and marble

Proclamations in a dusty will

But you give more by leaving hints and guesses

Unpicked berries on a brambled hill

So we can battle the brambles, and we will give it our best

And the birds might get the sweetest ones, but we’ll have all the rest.


© 1993 Pamela Cardullo Ortiz