Ellen Goldstein


Writing persona poems gives me a way to think through the implications of history. The silent question behind this poem is whether it is possible to pay close enough attention to the world we live in to be able to see and address atrocities that are happening now.





Sander’s portraits of all classes and professions were not acceptable to Nazi government authorities. Consequently, he spent much of the 1930s and 1940s making sensitive photographs of the German countryside.

—caption to an August Sander photograph


I walked unharmed down country lanes
while moonlight rested in the open fields.
It was a relief to take pictures
of valleys grown still with fog
or the blankness of water mirroring
the sky, rather than the faces
of my countrymen, their lips
closed around their fear.

I never saw the shards
of Jewish windows glinting
in the jagged river, or noticed
how the trees marched
in lines through Rhineland
forests, or that in wintertime
the snow fell as finely as ash.



Ellen Goldstein was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in StorySouth, The Formalist, The New Hampshire Review, and Lilith. She lives in Massachusetts.