📬 Want some Southern goodness in your inbox every Friday?
Get Scalawag's latest stories and a run down of what's happening across the South with our weekly newsletter.
Maeve Holler's poetry is a love song to her working-class roots and the many places she's called home, including the one and only New Orleans, "I suck it all up. With death as occupation, I take it all in like the pleasure of the earth is my feast: the menthol breath of October, the cowardly smile of your dog, textures of kaleidoscope rhinestones, and the devil's sunbeams raining thick in New Orleans fog. The glittering heartbeat of breathing—I go in on this love."
A POINT OF BALANCE BETWEEN TWO STARS
Title borrowed from Joy Harjo's "Secrets from the Center of the World."
Table setting and silverware placement don't belong in the lexicon of my body, and neither does the word lexicon. I don't know the importance of granite countertops, and I've always wanted a wood floor. I learned all the fancy things I know from Amelia Bedelia books—like what it means to draw drapes or dress turkeys. Until I was 18, I got my hair cut in my mom's friend's basement on East Village, the same road where my dad's mechanic operated illegally out of his personal garage, before he died in a motorcycle accident. I know how to make my own Windex, how to cook gallons of red sauce from scratch for less than 5 bucks, how to tell if a cold Coors Light is actually cold enough. When she was still alive, my granny thought jumpsuits were sophisticated, so she bought me a powder blue mini jumpsuit at 6 years old. I loved playing pretend with her. I met heroin death in a classmate 4 years later. I can open a beer with my teeth, light a joint with a hot knife, triangulate the best spots to smoke in the Valley woods (#1 being the wells, under the deer trap, just past my house). I never knew what "new car smell" really was until a couple years ago. I love the BBQ restaurant run out of a trailer right off Rt. 34, overlooking the Housatonic River. My grandpa sucked the green out of lobsters—I always admired him for that. I might be able to show you how to split firewood on a stump, how to season it just right. My bedroom in my parent's home didn't have a door for over 10 years. Just a curtain. Sometimes I forget that my brother's '91 Camry doubles as an ashtray. When I got to college, I drank every night for three weeks because I forgot I liked learning and I didn't know anyone like me. I hated my excitement. Now, I think a lot about my friends stuck at home, practicing escapism and love with a Ouija board. This is the womb that I came from, the wild acid spitting in my chest. Sometimes I wonder if it's too late for me, as I drown in white wine, read poetry, and talk about math my parents never learned. So, I still search for the axis: the equation to calculate the balance between these two stars.
SELF PORTRAIT AS BLACK HOLE
I suck it all up. With death as occupation, I take it all in like the pleasure of the earth is my feast: the menthol breath of October, the cowardly smile of your dog, textures of kaleidoscope rhinestones, and the devil's sunbeams raining thick in New Orleans fog. The glittering heartbeat of breathing—I go in on this love. I glutton like the gravity trap I am. I eat the chiffon fuchsia curtains, your mother's wedding dress, the deep green salt of ocean honey & orgasm bliss. I ravage in grass stains, in sleep, in palm leaves. In the haunting stillness of firsts. In the stumble of sangria night. You could call it dumb consumption, but I devour the pornography of it all. I'm a hypothetical star, a depression, sapping your spacetime, your tastebuds, the hue of your sky. Even radiation can't escape me. Are you wondering where I put it all? It's all stored inside of me, dormant & twisted until the lavender day when it will be birthed again. Then, maybe the light will be a better version of itself. Maybe it will be less shimmer and more unwashed. More persistent. More graphic. The mutilated little lovechild of my body's depression. Nurtured full term and finally spit out.