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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Sarah Joyce Bersonsage


pumping gas at the dim edge
of the lot, i hear a rustle,
stiffen, and see a squirrel
chased by no one.
i cannot shake the old place.

the air is different here—crisp,
and the wind that only straightens,
and does not bend the spine,
does not smell of siphoned gasoline,
sloppy cigarettes, worms, and rotting

and this is how it must have been

for them, those first and tardy ones

seeking refuge, seeking eden

in someone else’s world.

dour and starched and half-dead from the voyage,

did they challenge the branches to duels?


i cannot help but think of them—

their gaunt and waxen faces—those screaming

women with fevers and no mothers,

dying in the breach—

pilgrim: how the word has changed,
grown tawdry, disavowed.
i replace the pump and drive away,
still locking my doors.


when i first heard the news
about what had happened to the water
i thought that the poison was in the river
the one that runs through my hometown
in the jagged shadow of the city.
and this made sense to me. i knew
how the poison of a place could stick,
even after the place was gone, like
the genesee towers, which threatened
to stone passerby for years—even after
the girl was gone, the one who threatened
for years to leave.

out east,
when i told people where i was from, they winced
and asked if i knew michael moore
as one inquires whether an icelander
is acquainted with björk.

i was in the same room with him once.
a city of one hundred thousand
is just that small. i was sixteen
and wore a tight black dress— i think
he did not notice me.
i did not come alone to the gala
in the city that had been fired and shot
and low for years and not yet poisoned.
i did not leave alone.
my shadow held my hand, before
he reached for my throat.

they blew up the genesee towers in 2013,
my witching hour of a year,
and the street to me is as strange as the cities
of water and plastic in downtown backyards.
i know now that the problem lies deep,
a tangle of metal as old as ford’s promise
of five dollars a day.
half a thousand miles away,
in full sunlight, I carried my keys splayed,
the blades poking between my fingers,
and never forgot
to lock the door.


Sarah Joyce Bersonsage received a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint and a Ph.D from the University of Rochester, where she specialized in seventeenth-century British literature.  She is a native of the Flint area, to which she recently returned after numerous adventures in western New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  Her current interests include Attic Greek, ecopsychology, and ritual studies.

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