Monday, March 1, 2021

This cannot protect you by Doug Holder

The books you stacked
dusty columns
the entitlement
of their bold titles--
the absolute
of their authors
fall with a shut
of the door.

This cannot protect you.

Your safe harbor...
some flimsy
false, fantasy
would not
outlast the

This cannot protect you.

you said,
"No one dies at the Au Bon Pain"
At least in your favorite cafe
a bagel
a New York Times
the transitory
assurance of the

This cannot protect you.

You look to the early morning sun,
you thought this would bring
yet another day
the string of relentless rituals
the list of chores
checked out
in a strict chronological

This cannot protect you.

You assumed
her hand
pressed in yours
finger to finger
veins twisting into veins
the skin between you
a spotted history
this bond
cannot be broken.

This cannot protect you.

The cat curls up to you
it knows the scent
and something pierces the whiskey fog
of your long journey into night
and there is the sweet, ethereal horn
of a long dead jazzman.

All this
will not protect you.

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His work has appeared in The Worcester Review, Rattle, Caesura, and many others. His latest book of poetry is The Essential Doug Holder: New and Selected Poems (Big Table Books). 


  1. Brilliant, hard-hitting, poignant, unsparing...and best of all....true

  2. Sadly, I have come to realize that even reading such fine, illuminated and illuminating poetry cannot protect me. I don't care. Bring it on...PLEASE!
    Awesome work, this.

  3. The unvarnished truth. Damn it.

  4. Perfect late-night poem as I sway between melancholy & despair, paradoxically comforted by the words that tell me nothing will protect me.

  5. Doug Holder is one of my favorite contemporary poets. Great poem, as always.