Monica Berlin

What does any of this matter on nights so hot we can't sleep, somewhere else the rivers spilling banks, pouring in, and somewhere else still, drought spreading out the once rich land into a layer of silt. What does it matter these nights, our backyards of trains, our turning to dust, even as we're more saturated than we've ever been? We're tracing routes of the maps hung above our beds, not sleeping. We're creasing the atlases held in our laps, folding over the corners of another city gone, another place we'll never see now tumble-weeding, now washed away.

Because I've become too lazy to lip-read in noisy rooms, the other night I heard, He said he's going to make a city for all of us when we visit. He said he's going to make a city for us so we'll never want to leave. Instead of asking for a translation, instead of trying to clarify, I said, I would live in any city that man made, and I meant it, and when everyone stared, when everyone tried to adjust their sense of what they'd heard, I said, Think of the light there, that pulse. Someone corrected me, annoyed: He said dinner, not city. And I said, Oh, though I wasn't hearing the revision. I was thinking about where cities go when they're gone. I was thinking about the roads out of here. About how no one seems to leave this place with any grace. I was thinking about the bowl of my body, dusting over. About predictability. About expecting something even as we can't. About any city my friend would make, any city whole enough, where we could live. I was thinking about our poor, damp hearts, and the ground torn up by wind that might carry us all away.





In a month of disasters, in another year of disasters—everything waterlogged or blown away, another year fraying and scouring clean what had been logged, put down, made ready to be righted—I was planning a car trip along the entire length of the Mississippi on the Great River Road. The river started rising and would keep rising. Tornadoes followed, and countless man-made erasures. Sometimes, it was hard to remember why I felt so urgent a pull to follow that river from its headwaters to its mouth, but the urgency persisted.