Iowa Writes


When he was little and ran along the lakeshore, my brother Carson dug holes in the wet sand. They filled with water. He delved below the waterline and kept digging, not for drip castles like I made, or to use them as bathtubs or bays, but as holes whose purpose was to be dug and, maybe later, re-dug. The wet walls shrugged and slid down, the bottom flattened with the wetness, and the sand became dark sludge. He pulled the sludge up a smoothed side and piled it between his feet. It dried and cracked. As he got older, Carson progressed to metal shovels and a spot near the garden next to a young tree. I always thought of it as his tree since the dogwoods I'd grown up climbing had died from a fungus while this tree flung itself skyward. He dug near the outskirts of its roots, and as his hole deepened he must've begun to see it as a destination as well as a means, because one day he pulled a piece of serrated tin over his head when he was inside the hole, and he sat there for an hour or two in the secret cool with the root tendrils and grubs. Then Mom backed over our dog, which I always thought of as my dog since I picked her out from the pound a few months after my brother was born but seemed less like my dog after I'd left home and she'd stayed and bayed at the power lines until she quivered with senility and imagined fleas. She was old enough for the backing-over to be deemed decent, I thought, but Mom wept into the phone anyway—the horror of the bump—while out in the yard Carson buried the dog in his childhood hole. Later, he mentioned only how heavy she was. He'd carried her in his arms because a wheelbarrow didn't seem proper. He had to dig up the ground all around his hole to cover the dog and fill the hole since the sand he'd excavated to make it had long been subsumed by the garden. Now the ground at that spot looks like the opposite of a crater, an inverted plaster mold of where something hit the earth with great force.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Amelia Bird was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and is now a graduate student in the Center for the Book. Combining her writing with structure and images in artist's books such as Holes, Amelia explores the intersections of place, memory, and imagination. You can find her writing in The Southern Review and her artist's books online at or for purchase through Vamp & Tramp booksellers.

This page was first displayed
on May 18, 2011

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