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Maya A. Marshall

Years: 2014, 2015, 2018


Maya Marshall is a Chicago-based writer, editor, and poet. She is co-founder of  www. Marshall holds fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her chapbook Secondhand was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. Marshall earned her MFA from the University of South Carolina, and she serves as a senior editor for [PANK] and as a manuscript editor for Haymarket Books. Find her on the internet; @mayaamarshall Twitter; @maya.marshall.16 Insta and FB.





Last night my brother called.

We made promises.

Don’t leave me alone

with our mother while she’s dying.

Promise me you won’t be

her or her mother:

blue light single women,

amber oil on bulbs,

sleeping in ashes

and urine and nine dogs

to replace her living

children. I do.


I remember when I would

pray. I would talk to the belly

I came from, murmur to it like it was

a demigod, rest my cheek on its sag

and C-shaped scar.


I remember us singing each other to sleep.


I can dream what not to be:

blue notes, don’t smoke in bed,

anti-anxiety meds,

baskets of paper, piles

of clothes, death by rebirth.


Use water to cleanse, destroy.


I still remember who

she was:

energy crystals, books:

books for interpreting


The Bible. Books for

interpreting numbers.

The Bible. Tarot cards.

The Bible. Stages.

She was light and dazzle—

her name in jumbo letters.


She died in water,

leaving her sinner-self

behind. All her stories,

loves, lovers, the women, to drown

in baptism. She rose, still broken,

to live in wait, to die eventually.


The truth is,

we won’t find her—her children—instead,

we guess. Which will win,

the depression or the diabetes?


Imagine we find her in

melted ice cream.


The truth:

we don’t find her.

She sleeps, burns the house down.

Charred puppy bones.


she falls.

The puppies defecate,

copulate, die buried in piles:

shawls, estate finds, boutique-y

African garb.


The truth:

we, her children, don’t talk

the right way. There’s so much poison in guilt.

Her assistant finds her.


the security guard

who prays with her.

He’s the last man to touch her

hands in love.


I don’t remember the last time

we prayed together, but

my heart wants to be faithful.


I love to touch her hands,

the yellow curve where

she holds her cigarettes.

I remember her stories. I’ll build

a house of old stories, no longer loves,

tales for my nieces. My mother can live with me

when my brothers leave me to wash her

softest parts, hear her final

secrets, watch her next rebirth.