Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
About This
How to Submit

Gone Lawn 1
Autumn, 2010

Featured Excerpt

New Works

Sara Greenslit

Our Histories (Are Blurring)
excerpt from the fiction manuscript, As If a Bird Flew By Me

How far away can you hear a carriage coming down a dirt road?

How long to fray the edge of a petticoat?

What happens if you get caught singing at home, alone?

Is that rage calling across the marsh?


    The air is thick with the dead. Outside, a lamppost casts a corridor of light into a winter night. Alive, we shine in that beam, oblivious of what waits just beyond it, its inhabitants sliding through our very breath. The night is gargantuan, expanding, taking the heat of our bodies.


    Time as a variable, as a line, a continuum, a circle, a start and stop, fast-forward, relative, keepsake, period, waste, matter of, once upon a, piece, ordinary.
    The last leaves on trees move in the breeze stiff and fast, vibrating like plants in time lapse photography.


Palm to a horse's shoulder, skin twitching under your touch—how long can you hold it there? Your hand smells like a hayed field—

They don't like to be ridden, she said. Once out of the view of the house, I get down and the horse follows me like a large dog, reins in my hand. I know they don't want a rider—look how they linger and shuffle and eat along the trail, and look how they speed back to the barn

The ball of the foot in the stirrups, sweat on the saddle, ankles to the cage of ribs, heel scraping the keyboard of bones, the cinched strap

Can you hear a carriage a mile away? The hooves and leather straps, the metal bit?

Fetlock, withers, croup, poll—

Brown and black canterings across green fields


    If you have a close family, when you die you may become a person with a rich history. You are lucky and will be remembered with stories from your life, whether they are true, exaggerated or fabricated.
    Less fortunate are those who only have a few close relatives or friends to consider them. Either way, you may be reduced to a brief anecdote, repeated, so that you become the words, and your life, your body, and the remainder of its hours never existed.   Likewise, if you are famous, you may become one thing: what you did that one day (or days) that the world kept your name.
    Further down the scale are those whose names are known, but have no narrative. What happened along the way from daily activity and interaction, to this?
    If you are lost, quiet in a large family, next generations will have no idea who you are. If you tend to be this kind of person, write your name on the backs of your photos.
    Then there are those who have no stories and no names—everything is engulfed into the past, into carbon and vapor.
    If you are childless, your history will be omitted by gene and mouth—who will send
out about your life if not your progeny?


    The sky grey, post-rain, the trees are glowing, leafless, a sandy pink to the swaying limbs. It's dense, humid, ubiquitous.   The black walnuts reflect the sun, a warbler pulses by the tall congregation, fly, flew, gone, body tapering into thrust wings, a blink, off. The sun, in its setting, yellowing everything vertical, keeps pushing into the bark, into the palomino sky that is gradually bluing, the bark warming briefly, on this spring afternoon, the world is tree, wet road, bird, mossy sky.


A photo in a box of others: a sunburned row of farmers with their seated and stout wives, none smiling

Red beard of her father's father, her strawberry-blond hair as a child

Her grandmother's coin purse snapping open—here, a few coins, for whatever you want

Her grandmother in her elegant wedding dress, skirt tuliping over her lap, her collarbone exposed, a small stone necklace to her throat, silk mary janes each with a ribbon strap and a button clasp— What happened to her elegant dresses after she married?


The spinning wheel whirring, a mixture of lull and repetition (hum, thrum, lie down)—a near jittery loss of self (become the sound and motion, fall into the path of the wheel—)

Can barely hear, far off, the clank of the cow's bell down by the stream

The shadows of small birds traipse past the windows in clumps and single speed—
    You might catch me daydreaming


    Once, once before there were words, there was breath waiting, waiting for words, waiting for mouths about to shape sounds, the guttural, the mellifluous, the fired, the singing, the countless combinations of what will be said. Speak.

Sara Greenslit won the 2009 FC2 Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Award for her novel, As If a Bird Flew By Me, which will be published by FC2 / UAP in 2011. In 2006, Greenslit was awarded the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction for her novel, The Blue of Her Body, published by Starcherone in 2007. She earned an MFA in poetry from Penn State University and has been awarded grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and from the Barbara Deming Foundation / Money for Women. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is a small animal veterinarian.

Gone Lawn is thankful to FC2 / UAP for agreeing to our publication of this piece as we look forward to Greenslit's upcoming book, As If a Bird Flew By Me.