2023 Roots & Roads 3rd Place Winner: “Motherland” by Edgar Morales

“When it rains, the water flows off the dead dirt / like the words of her father roll off her mother’s back.”

Let’s celebrate our 2023 Roots & Roads 3rd Place Winner, Motherland by Edgar Morales! We are so excited to share such an important poem that delves into the nostalgia and struggle of a childhood and land that is only known through stories.



after Vievee Francis 


I want to unearth the dirt my mother once walked.


The only piece of México I have to hold, stories 

she tells of her childhood. Barefoot on the ground, 

her vestal sole balances over an abandoned chicken coop. 

Feathers in her hair, hands on her head, she hums 

into the air. She burns her father’s truck tires to stay alive, 

the blazing heat and tar-black smog clogs her nose. 

When it rains, the water flows off the dead dirt 

like the words of her father roll off her mother’s back. 

On Thursdays, she clips her grandmother’s hair 

into ivy vines which she sells on the corner. 

Along the highway, miles and miles of nothingness. 

Arms locked with her brother, she cries into a salient moon. 

In the desert, I skin the Earth, peel back the crust beneath my feet

and curl my toes into crescent moons.


Edgar Morales

Edgar Morales was born and raised in Los Angeles and is the son of Mexican parents. He is a senior at Dartmouth College, where he is studying for a BA in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing. Morales’s work has appeared in Hipocrita Lector, The Nassau Literary Review, and Hands that Speak: Voices from the Upper Valley Dairy Farms, a bilingual collection of investigative journalism, critical essays, and photography focused on the migrant workers who labor at six dairy farms in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley. Morales is the winner of the 2023 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award for his poem “Swim.”

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