Like in the fable,
the magpie swallows stone after stone
watching its swelling belly in the kitchen window—
now, when it drinks, it won’t need so much water.
There’s a picture of me as a toddler about to gulp a handful of
My mother remembers I ate a spider off the floor.
Twenty-five years before, the year the U.S. banned lead
her dentist advised don’t eat paint
because children are eating the walls of their homes
and she knew it was because plaster crumbles on the tongue just
She keeps a carton of Arm & Hammer baking soda in the
She says it brightens her smile
and scoops cups of it from the orange box beside the sink and
Once, we share a spoon:
it tastes like chalk and sweetheart candies.
I call home Sunday night. Mom says
Even before you were born I felt like I’d like to have
sand in my mouth
Although she doesn’t do it anymore
hasn’t done it in a while
hasn’t had the craving in quite some time.
In the South
women buy white dirt by the pound
in zip-tied plastic baggies
or dig it from their backyards while their children are at school.
They crave it in pregnancy, swallowing handful after handful.
In a documentary one says
Every day, twice a day, I take dirt from this wall and eat
I read an article
a doctor says it’s culture bound,
in another generation it will disappear altogether.
My mother was born in Wisconsin,
raised in the Midwest,
she did not mine the Kansas mud.
She tells me
I had a certain texture I wanted
and when I had it for the first time I realized
this is what I’ve been looking for—