Maeve Holler

THE DIRT WHICH BIRTHS US

Foxworth, Mississippi, 2021

for my Granny

At the bottom of Red Bluff, I see you. Your body an eggshell, your insides spilling out like yolk

across the sunset clay. I see your muddy boots abandoned at the bottom of the canyon, your

face covered in pink dirt. I see you tied to a tree like a faded bandana, flapping in the breeze. I

see you spinning out in the four-wheeler-made-waterfall, wrapped up in the gnarled mess of

deflated tires.

I see you in a gauzy yellow nightgown, wading out into the mouth of the Pearl River. I see you

detach your feet and escape the mucky silt. I see you in the way the water forges its own

strategy. I see you on the train tracks, hurtling like a coyote in your slippers toward

the abandoned train wreck.

I see you in all that hasn’t escaped this giant cavern. I see you scaling the walls of the bluff with

your hair wrapped up—self-done nails scratching mad at the sandy cliffs, ghosts of dust’s past

kicking up all around you. I see you climb and climb and climb. I see the peak of the canyon

grow further from your shaky grasp. I see you transfix. I see you call out for somebody, for

anybody. But I can’t hear you. I can’t help you. My legs go quicksand.

I’m spellbound and minuscule in this yawning crater, subsumed by the land. I wake up in

tomorrow and see you buried inside of me. Your body, a seed in the wind, traipsing like a

whisper in the hollow belly of the earth, still running after death from the soil’s absorption.

I’M GETTING THERE

My dad says in a text, his words escorted

by an image of the torn-up bathroom floor.

Tub gone, vanity scrubbed out, I think

of my teenage shins, imprinted & sticky

genuflecting by that old toilet. My head

a starving, spinning glacier searching

for its own body of water. I remember

thinking, I’m taller than the mirror

and still, I clone myself. Then again,

I’m 15-years-old, counting my past

lives. How many wilting miasmas

did I birth on that cold yellow tile?

Back then, I was a marbled carcass,

an oyster shell of someone-to-be

praying past the cloud which clung

to my skin. The bathroom, inoperative

for the last 10 years. It’s headway,

Dad, I get it. Stones in my stomach,

I wonder, how many drowning machines

did I build in that bath?

MAEVE HOLLER is an editor, writer, poet, and educator from Shelton, Connecticut. In 2020, she earned her MFA from the University of Miami, where, as a Michener Fellow, she taught creative writing and English composition courses. Previously, Maeve served as the Managing Editor for the literary magazine Sinking City. In 2017, she received her BA in English and Gender & Sexuality Studies from Tulane University in New Orleans. Maeve’s writing, which focuses on depicting working-class experiences and retelling familial folklore, has appeared or is forthcoming in The Boiler Journal, Leveler, Scalawag, The Cardiff Review, Wildness, Mantra Review, Lotus-Eater Magazine, and elsewhere. Her in-progress full length poetry manuscript won GASHER Journal's First Book Scholarship in 2019 and she is the recipient of the 2020 Alfred Boas Poetry Prize for her poem, 'SELF PORTRAIT AS BLACK HOLE.' Maeve currently lives in New Orleans, LA and works as a copywriter.

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