Poet/Memoirist/Artist Holley M. Hill on Family, Subjective Truth, and Healing

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

Cosmographia Books is very proud to

announce the debut of

There Is Only Lampyridae

by Holley M. Hill

In this hybrid collection of genre-bending, heart-wrenching memoir, Hill recounts the eden-like natural world of rural New Hampshire as seen through the eyes of a child, and the deterioration of that magical place as her family life begins to unravel from within.

Hill's work uses poetry and prose to explore sense of place, familial dysfunction, and the slippery nature of consciousness, accompanied by Hill's original collages and actual diary entries from her childhood.

We asked Holley to share her thoughts on the coming publication of her hybrid-genre memoir, and she DID NOT disappoint.

Holley M. Hill on Family, Subjective Truth, and Healing

My fragile heartstrings

cling weakly—like meat on bone—

leaving home behind.

I didn’t sleep a wink for 45 hours. The crumbling asphalt road rolled itself out in front of us and my eyes could do nothing but let the distance gobble up their sight. My younger sister tightened her already white-knuckled grip on the wheel and sighed heavy, deep exhales as I stared ahead, unblinking, unaware if I was even asleep or awake anymore.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked, making it a point to bring up the topic I had asked her not to. She couldn't help herself. This was her trip, after all. We were headed west so she could finish her doctoral degree with an intensive internship in an institution somewhere in the black heart of California called Death Valley.

Of course I wanted to talk about it, but I knew what my little sister was capable of; I knew the kind of conversations she had learned to have sitting attentively through class after class with titles like "Family Psychology" and "Psychiatric Assessments and the Mind."

We’d had similar talks before and I always left them feeling like she was going to send me a bill, or use me as an example in one of her case studies. This was too important to be psychoanalyzed. This was too big a piece of myself left hanging out in the wind like a skinned carcass just waiting to be butchered.

No, I didn’t want to talk about my book.

“No, no. I think I feel pretty good about it. Thanks.”

The truth was . . . I didn’t. The truth was, all I wanted to do was put the book in her hands, turn around, and walk away so I could go and find a quiet lonely place to sob. I didn’t want to explain myself, because I assumed that she, of all people, would understand what it’s like to rip out a section of your skeleton and throw it out of your house.

We flew through Kansas;

between rows of corn, winds blew

like haunted highways

As we spun worn wheels through hopeless, dusted out towns, I thought about her place in my story, my narrative, my life’s work I now called There is Only Lampyriadae. The first time she read it, she folded down the last page, looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Well, that part about me is not true.”

In that moment I went boneless. My jaw dropped. Between my ears was a crashing, free-falling-down fear. What did she expect? All along I had known, as I had hoped she would when she read the monstrous terror scuffed out between my words: this was the only truth I knew, and it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t tell her story; I couldn't tell my sister's, or my brother's story; I certainly couldn’t tell my father’s story, or my mother's . . . and after a lifetime of trying, I knew I couldn’t fix them either.

The barren, sliding,

place tucked in rock, a lonely

callous shrug of earth.

It wasn’t until after we put the viridian fields behind us that I found a way to answer her; and it was not the reply I had expected to find between the endless murmurs of young cornstalk, watching the road and gossiping, whispering omniscient fortunes into the wind. After Kansas, and the soft shattered voice of the plains stopped humming, I knew the only answer was this: silence.

There was simply nothing more to say, now that my truth had been told. There was no words left to explain how I longed to have lived it through her eyes, through the eyes of my twin, or my brother. I was always desperate to understand their lens of it all, but my distorted scope can only tell one story. A story stuck on repeat, reeling through a damaged projector, spinning, shrieking, and starting to produce sparks.

God scooped out the meat

of the world—boulders rolling

down steep canyon walls.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon took my silence, like one of a billion seeds tossed into the sky, and swallowed it without question, or effort, or judgment. I didn’t know where it would end up, but I also, like a tiny velvet pocket sunk into petals, felt it wasn’t mine to know. I could only hold on to my roots, the tendrils of all I have become, and hope my story can find a place, a young soul, a family’s garden perhaps, to land and grow into something more than what it started as.

I stood on the edge

and leaned out over canyons,

broke open and deep.

I slept for 10 hours, deep and gauzy dreams blurring the edges of stars as we barreled under them on the plane ride home, thousands of feet in the air and weightless. My hollowed-out bones filled with the clear voice of God, which I had come to hear only after throwing my own off the edge of the world, letting my story, my part in my sister’s story, in all our stories, find a place outside of me to grow into something more.

One morning, not too long after returning home to my daughter, my husband, my garden, I woke up with that silence gone; severed between us like an electrical wire snapped in a storm. Dreaming, I had realized something that changed it all.

I did not write this book for others to read; I wrote it for the little girl inside of me to read. Now, I can be on both sides of this flipping coin, and tell that little girl what I had wanted my sister, or my mother, or my father to tell me when they heard my story. I can tell her how to heal herself.

“I think maybe you

are manifesting your own

destiny,” she said.

“And, who am I to

say what direction you should

point your compass in?”

“Our paths are tangled

together; deep roots that

can’t imagine light."

“So,” she said, “if there's

a way to climb out of that

darkness . . . you find it.”

“Lastly, take this gift—

all the love I have—something

you’ve always deserved.”

Preview Holly M. Hill's art from There is Only Lampyridae (click the image to the right)

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