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
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.