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Holy Moly Carry Me

Holy Moly Carry Me

by Erika Meitner
Holy Moly Carry Me

Holy Moly Carry Me

by Erika Meitner


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Winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry

Erika Meitner’s fifth collection of poetry plumbs human resilience and grit in the face of disaster, loss, and uncertainty. These narrative poems take readers into the heart of southern Appalachia—its highways and strip malls and gun culture, its fragility and danger—as the speaker wrestles with what it means to be the only Jewish family in an Evangelical neighborhood and the anxieties of raising one white son and one black son amidst racial tensions and school lockdown drills. With a firm hand on the pulse of the uncertainty at the heart of 21st century America and a refusal to settle for easy answers, Meitner’s poems embrace life in an increasingly fractured society and never stop asking what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942683636
Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
Publication date: 09/11/2018
Series: American Poets Continuum , #166
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Erika Meitner is the author of five books of poems, including Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010), which was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner, Copia (BOA Editions, 2014), and Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions, 2018). Her poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Tin House, The New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, Oxford American, Best American Poetry, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. In 2015, she was the US-UK Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast, and she has also received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She is currently an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she directs the MFA and undergraduate programs in Creative Writing.

Read an Excerpt


I am riding the F train to Brooklyn
with my son, who is Appalachian
as much as anything, who is six and
does not notice the Hasidic women
reading Tehilim on their way home,
praying psalms from worn leather-
bound siddurim, moving their lips
past Broadway, Second Avenue,
Delancey, and he would not know
to identify them by their below-
the-knee skirts, the filled in parts
on their sheitels where scalp should
be visible, or the Brighton Beach men
in grey fedoras with threatening hand-
tattoos speaking Russian, the occasional
wondrous mosaic murals or regular
green and white tiles spelling station
names: Bergen St., Carroll St., Smith
9th St., my son discovering he can see
his own reflection in the windows
of the cars when they plunge into
dark tunnels while the women’s lips
keep moving, and I want to tell him
I know their kind, though I know
to say this is reductive or offensive,
even if I might say it too about the
bleach blond with the septum ring,
or the old Russian mobsters, so
when he says, It’s hard to believe that
you got off here every day,
I agree and
think of all the times I climbed
the station stairs or felt the give
of metal turnstiles on my hips,
the jangle of apartment keys or
click of my own heels on pavement
after a night out too late, the car service
guys playing dominoes on overturned
crates outside the bodega who didn’t
look up, and the way the trains still
vibrate beneath the surface with exactly
the same frequency they always did,
blowing hot air through the grates,
rattling me to the bone with foreboding
joy and I want to tell him I know this
exact moment, the one where you finally
learn the contours of your own face,
its beauty as it hurtles through darkness.


Let’s say we are making a list
and it’s not about how to be

good or zombie foreclosures
or anything resembling distress

calls from an airline going down
in a cluster of trees. Someone

says, I’ve got a situation here,
but they don’t mean that holiday

picture of you dangling handcuffs
from your index finger or the fact

that your mother loved you
very much until we enhanced

the audio. Let’s say we are in
violation of the local housing

code, which specifies the number
of outlets per room where we can

plug in to the network, which says
Join Other Network or Airport: On.

The overhead compartments groan
under the weight of our collective

sadness and in the emergency exit
row we must speak English, confirm

with a loud yes that we’re willing
to perform certain duties. We agree

to rescue each other and strangers
who also glance sideways at street

grids from above during takeoff,
chew gum while we rise past what-

ever their threshold for fear or
adventure. We are under the care

of each other and sometimes we
fail mightily to contain the damage:

the house, picked clean by scavengers,
the hanging gutters, collapsed garage.


If you are fearful, America,
I can tell you I am too. I worry
about my body—the way, lately,
it marches itself over curbs and
barriers, lingers in the streets
as a form of resistance.

The streets belong to no one
and everyone and are a guide
for motion, but we are so numerous
there is no pavement left on which to
release our bodies, like a river spilling
over a dam, so instead my body
thrums next to yours in place.

When we stop traffic or hold
hands to form a human chain,
we become a neon OPEN sign
singing into the night miles from
home when the only home left
is memory, your body, my body,
our scars, the dark punctuated
with the dying light of stars.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Erika Meitner is the quintessential 21st century storyteller bearing witness from the vantage point of a social critic with heart, humor, and an incomparable voice. Holy Moly Carry Me is an urgent document of our complex ties with the past, and the dangers of letting histories, private and public, repeat themselves. She reminds us that “We are under the care of each other and sometimes we/ fail mightily to contain the damage.” This collection is Meitner at the height of her powers." —Carmen Giménez Smith

"Holy Moly Carry Me is a triumph! In these formally dexterous poems Meitner vibrates wildly between the song & the document, exploding the shadowy space between history & memory. The opening poem tells us, “There are holes in all of these stories—open-mouthed gaps in the fence, a singing presence.” The voices in this books fill those gaps with a brilliant & difficult noise. In this necessary unprecedented book Meitner has assembled the materials of our apocalyptic present & past and invites us in to revel & quake with her." —sam sax

“In the stunning, exact, and haunting book Holy Moly Carry Me, Meitner’s strong signature voice is on full display, but with a complex empathy for the violent, messed-up world. These are powerful poems that wonder, ache, fear, question, delve into history, and somehow never stop praising the human capacity for survival.” —Ada Limón

Customer Reviews