Sarah Goldstein
From Village Letters

New swamp pulsed, reeds braided and choked; filthy shoreline
swoll my knees. I’ve been marking grasshoppers, their small
communities cut off from hayfields; geological instant they signal
and click, with clear air intimacy; together they say: come at me.


Communication from last week: “Redrawn sheep ambling the
riverbed eat former air; fish populations are chemistry.” I made a
notation in code: thick leg beneath shattered barn.


I’ve retained my original room due to elevation, but the lights work
seven hours only, or five. A shelter for you, out of rule books and
scratches. Released from somewhere, small craft float by the

Upon my neighbors table lay affliction; around their pestilence
fields lay whitened vines; in imitation, in resignation, I cramped by
their roofless barn, listened to their little transistor: much like an
old man, abound with stories

We’ve had to restart the national territory all in this one county, the
years have been colossal, the risk is in remaining alive. I have so
much trouble tracking time, and can’t say a word once I get home,
it’s so dark; I eat, candle coated, wax-eared against the silt.


Nothing of rights here, our temperatures became unlawful, atonal;
hum-human; a devil developed the jetstream; much of the
coastline impenetrable; animal atrocities served to the enemy;
temptations familiar to everyone; an analogy against elementary
fact/an invasion of grasses we consider a crime.


Careful, I know my correspondence falters: been counting my
allotments; accompanied the seeds to Pomeroy at the monument,
then to Barnstable; smoothed my dress in the chamber, signed a
register in the galley; placed coins in the guard’s purse; but in my
own rooms I am thinking on the plan: some yellow hill covered
over with corn and wrinkled fruits

And my accounting so often pivots–I wrote: “this is the story of
our rainfall”; you remarked how strange that sounds and the year
has indeed seemed like a little dream, when we found ourselves in
the un-passable gulf at last made passable; or when we gathered
by the athletic fields to read the models of constitution, and yet
could not simulate the effect of a settlement.

You would not recognize my weak pocked skin, or remember this
place from the water, or that we waved as you departed. You might
wonder which is the river and which is the land; another year of
descendants were plowed under.


When meeting a neighbor I remember to say “the slender trees
should survive” but I doubt they will recover; it softens my resolve
to practice normalcy. When I encounter strangers I must smile and
say “may the residents and livestock trapped by water be safe.”

Perhaps the air in our neighborhood “is clean and enlivening” or
it’s that I depend too much upon your writing; I am doing the
same things I always did, and listen: if you take a picture of the sun
slowly ending this place, many would stand here and wait with

I think I read a painful emotion arising in your words, like when I
told you where the old dairy cows and riding school horses were
abandoned; I could tell you were wavering remembering those

You ought instead to remember that when the village trees were
taken down, we looked upon the woodpile with satisfaction, and
from then on we have so often pressed our knees to the dirt and
grass, we have tried to understand; we bend our knees upon this
ground day after day.

Radio wires strung, picking up my reassurance; broadcast back to
our property, it’s like I hear you speaking to me from the equator,
before the ash came.

You asked about our old neighborhood: I was there not so long
ago, I walked the hill very early. You can walk it by a new path but
cars are not allowed. You can see into the houses. Between the lots
are beautiful quiet plants. Wispy sumac hides possible survivors.

I see a shape of myself in the sediment: I don’t think it’s a
coincidence. Most of our neighbors chose a simple covering. The
soil, let me tell you, has missed us.


March and August meeting on one particular afternoon–trees
bare, sodden heat, sun peeking. The winter months have
assimilated light: light is now moderate, the seasons undefined
and perfect; I would love to tell you how my feelings have altered
on this subject. I may tell you another time, or perhaps in another

Closer to the river, in the silt-wet, a commotion every night: the
coyotes have lost their senses. When it’s dry, I can coax them with
mouldy corn; I have their bones beside me.