Down South

Sarah Joyce Bersonsage



the night before the eclipse, i dreamed

that the underworld was a hospital in texas.

no beached ark of gleaming metal but

a sprawling campus, all in pastels—almost

a carnival for the dead.

every day their day below.

no pale asphodels, but aztec marigolds

and pomegranate sugar skulls,

and i had driven down

to help my aunt move in. she had

nine months to live

in my dream.

across the hall from the room where she died,

in the little ranch house not far from detroit,

sat a hundred porcelain dolls,

dressed in their best, as if for the funeral.

she took none of them with her to texas.

good greek girls used to sacrifice their toys

to artemis before their weddings.

my aunt was neither a good girl nor greek,

but the principle, i think, applies.

she brought ugly plastic kitchenware,

the sort that people gave to me—glad

to be rid of it—when i got my first

apartment. as i lugged it all

in the sunless heat, a border guard

(or rent-a-cop or ferryman)

began to yell at me,

but soon moved on

to harass a woman with darker skin

and no papers—and it struck me then

that there was here no river

no border


stagnant air

and sand.



Sarah Joyce Bersonsage received a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint and a Ph.D in English from the University of Rochester.  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 direct action.  She has two poems forthcoming in About Place, and her criticism has appeared in APPOSITIONS.