I was charmed by this new work of a Santa Fe artist. I hope to post a few more from time to time. I know the subject is loved by the blog’s readers.
Kid, some advice.
Don’t pretend things are okay when they’re not. Watch your temper. You look sweet, ringlets, ankle socks, but you can hang on in a fight until the other guy chews his leg off. That makes you think you can stand anything, but you can’t. You won’t forget your parents slamming doors. He slams. She slams. The full length mirror shatters to the floor. You cut your foot. Your bi-polar mother throws her best friend out of the car to walk home. Your mother throws you out of the car to walk home. Her lovers. His lovers.
Don’t find the worst thing ever and invite it in, marry it. Ditch the guy with fists. Lose the stoner, singing’s not enough. Wait.
Don’t believe you’ve got life licked, got it worked out, that you’ve arrived. You will never arrive, trust me. You’ll never feel comfortable for long, no matter how much you want it. You’ll never feel safe. You’re someone who waits at stations, misses planes, sleeps rough in stables. You smile at the hobos that live beside the tracks at the foot of the hill. Through campfire smoke, they smile back.
At twelve you run away, take a bus to to Penn Station, sit on a bench all night then walk home in time for breakfast, broke. At thirteen you’re auditioning for shows. At fourteen you‘re on tour, playing the younger sister in a loving family. The cast, drinks between shows, runs wild through a cemetery, vomits on gravestones, sleeps with each other in twin beds, four to a room, on the couch, the floor. All night, the Kingston Trio repeats itself: Lemon Tree; Five Hundred Miles. You can hear the whistle blow. You steal his undershirt to keep his smell close to you. Back home when the tour’s over, you kick your way through Central Park barefoot. Strangers yell at you. “You’ll cut you feet without shoes! Stupid girl! Where do you live? Where are your parents?” By sixteen you live alone in lower Manhattan,a special kind of lonely. Deadbolts, incinerators, switchblades. At night you climb to the building’s roof, bend back over the parapet, turn the sky upside down.
I wish I could help you, tell you that the feel of the park path on your soles, rough, hard, dry, or wet with sooty rain and dog piss, will carry you through the rest of your life. I wish I could tell you while you’re still a kid that when you’re old—and you will live to be older than I am now—it won’t be the sulfurous urban night sky you’ll recall as you drift off, nor your view dangling from rooftops, aimed at the street. Instead, you’ll draw stars up through gnarled feet, through the misstep into dog shit, skidding off rocks in the Rambles between mating men, horse drawn carriages, and cops.
Wade into the boat pond, Heidi. One day you and your husband will teach your son to sail.
There are so many wonderful e-zines out there right now. It is hard to keep track, but each new gem is a find. Plus, I think as writers we really enjoy the immediacy of seeing our work posted—often quickly and in fresh visually interesting formats. For readers, a snack sized dose of poetry is a click away…with whole magazines to peruse at leisure. Today I’m re-printing two newly published poems with links to more work. The first is by me at Fourth and Sycamore (what a cool name!): https://fourthandsycamore.com/2016/08/19/to-embark-iceland-poems-by-miriam-sagan/
They did a lovely job. Take a look for more poetry and more photos of Iceland, actually shot from the air by Isabel Winson-Sagan.
A Rainy Thursday in Laugervatn
wind comes off the water
trees–generic because I am a foreigner–bend in it
and the umbrella I transported for thousands of miles
shows its ribs
like a beached decaying pilot whake
small black ducks at the edge of the lake
pea plant gone saturated blue in the northern light
and although I praise and soothe the sheep
they turn fat furry tail and run
off on their little legs
like time, like wavelets on a shore
and reading a saga
in the hotel eadda
and waiting for lunch
I feel as if I were (although I’m not)
sitting in a ferry terminal
about to embark
bad news from far-away
god news up close (raindrop, birch)
and the artist tells me
if I understand correctly
that her great grandmother
is the one who carved this gigantic statue
of the tall woman
with enormous outspread wings
I love the two poems published at Soul-Lit by Michael G. Smith. He is a frequent blog contributor, and the poem copied here has that “feels true” chime to it. Let me say, though, the other poem of his up on the zine is complex and awakens the inner philosopher, so do check it out at http://www.soul-lit.com/poems/V13/Smith/index.html
Silence, a Verb
In the work of silence there is nothing to be
gained or possessed. Silence, a verb, what
do I hope to achieve
winging thoughts across paper,
the path walking, too beside the mountain.
Michael G. Smith
And some great poems by contributing writer Devon Miller-Duggan at https://broadzine.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/doors20163.pdfEnjoy!
Can Poetry Save Lives?
Maybe a poem isn’t going to knit a broken bone, or sew up a wound … but I wonder – can poetry save lives? In those dark hours full of complicated questions or those lonely moods that can swallow us like a fog, in a time of serious decision … can a poem find its way to us, let a color or complexity in?
In some of the darkest times of my own life, poetry has been a life raft. And in the times even worse than that, my own demon has actually, actively kept me away from poetry – a sort of self-starvation in the midst of my depression or grief. That’s why I believe in it. Because when I could finally get myself to the place where I could sit down and read a poem … perspective and equilibrium weren’t too far behind. It wasn’t about the poem solving anything … it was about finding a way to return to the world.
Anyway, survival requires more than just a beating heart … the heart needs something to beat for.
Here is a poem that works this kind of magic for me.
“O Taste and See”
by Denise Levertov
The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
Into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking
Dear Past Self,
I’d like to talk to you about what love is, and what it isn’t. As you go through the next few decades of life, many things are going to be said and done which will cause a lot of confusion for you about what it means to receive and give love. So many times, wounded parents fill their children with feelings of fear and rejection due to their inability and/or unwillingness to cope with their own problems. Their words sometimes leave behind even bigger bruises than their hands do.
The most important thing for you to remember is that your presence in this world is not something which you should ever feel guilt, shame, or regret for. As you get older, you will have a lot of things to heal from, and it may take a long time for you to realize that no one deserves to benefit from the fact that they have created fear or feelings of inadequacy in you. No, not even your parents. You will have grown so accustomed to walking on eggshells and feeling as though you can’t do anything right, that it may be difficult for you to create healthy relationships for a very long time.
Do not feel guilty for this either. Be gentle with yourself as you unlearn just about everything you’ve been taught about what it means to love and be loved. Give yourself the gentleness which you have deserved from the day that you entered this life. There are many stages to go through as you move through the upcoming healing process. You will feel anger, resentment, shame, guilt, fear, and uncertainty as you make your way toward wholeness. All of these feelings are a normal part of your experiences. Remember that you have been taught to question your every feeling and action. You no longer need to do this to survive.
It is normal too, to desire love and acceptance so much that you can be drawn into relationships of all kinds which are not healthy for you. This is because you have nothing to go by when it comes to recognizing healthy exchanges and fair treatment. No matter how hard this might seem, the first relationship which you will need to build in order to form a good foundation for all of the rest to come is the one with yourself. As time goes by, you will eventually reach this healthy stage in your life. Take the time to enjoy it. Savor the freedom which comes from letting go. Remember all of the obstacles you’ve made your way through over the years, and keep your eyes open for people who are in the position where you used to be as you were beginning to heal. A few kind words or a little reassurance from you can give them a jump start on their path.
Do not, however, take their burdens upon yourself to the degree that you are not living your life or dealing with your own stuff. This too, is a common thing which happens to people who have been through some of the things that you have. While it is good to care, you have to be aware of how much of what you do might be a distraction from dealing with your own issues. There is a lot of trial and error coming up, but you will realize that there is a difference between caring and avoidance, or even co-dependency. We do not have the ability to “fix” anyone other than ourselves. When the time comes that you find yourself thinking that you need to sacrifice parts of your very being in order to love someone enough-know that this is not true. Have faith in yourself. I do.
Your future self
My colleague Andy Lovato has published several books and contributed to more. Here he is writing on the perennial favorite supernatural La Llorona. If I ask a class who has seen her when they were children, a few hands always go up.
This is from his collection “Elvis Romero and the Cosmic White Corvette: Vignettes from the Life of a Santa Fe Muchacho” and first appeared in “Green Fire Times.” Enjoy!
Hunting La Llorona
Dark lady of tears
Weave the spell that stirs my soul
But wander not to near
During the glorious months of summer, the kids in Elvis’ neighborhood played hide and seek, tag and invented elaborate games. One game that they never tired of consisted of boys chasing girls and holding them captive inside a jungle gym at the local park. The girls pretended to be horses and the boys played the role of cowboys with the most successful hombre being the one that possessed the largest harem of stomping and snorting ponies.
After the sun went down, the favorite pastime was telling scary stories. Elvis and his friends never became bored with the recycled tales. They sat in circles on the green grass of a host family’s lawn as the nightly ritual commenced. Girls shrieked and the boys laughed nervously when the story-telling began.
Ghosts and witches were popular topics of conversation along with devils and graveyards. However, as far as terrifying characters were concerned, none rivaled the queen of terror, “La Llorona.”
La Llorona was a name that evoked fear in the hearts of all Santa Fe youngsters. Her legend had several variations but the basic theme went as follows:
La Llorona was a beautiful woman who married a rich nobleman. She was very happy and she gave birth to three radiant children. One day her husband left her for another woman and she was so consumed with rage that she took her children and drowned them in an arroyo filled with water. After she realized what she had done, she went mad with remorse and drowned herself. Since that day her ghost had wandered the arroyos of northern New Mexico wailing for her dead children.
The story went on to warn that if any child happened to be near an arroyo at night and was unfortunate enough to run into the weeping ghost, a horrible fate would await. Some storytellers claimed that her victims first saw a mysterious red light that hypnotized them. These unfortunate souls were not able to move and La Llorona did away with them like she’d done with her own children. If she felt merciful, she might take an unlucky child prisoner and lead her captive to a demented fortress where she made the poor creature her eternal slave. These prospects were unnerving and youngsters cringed at the idea of running into the weeping woman.
Needless to say, kids took special precautions to avoid arroyos after dark which pleased their parents greatly and there was little done to discourage the legend.
In a twisted way, getting scared was so much darn fun. Elvis never felt as alive as when his heart was pounding and he was peering around nervously looking for a glint of supernatural light or the sound of a grieving woman in the distance.
One typical summer evening in late July, as dusk fell and the stars began to peek out over the horizon of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, all the kids in Elvis’ neighborhood grew weary of tag and kick-the-can and headed over to Floyd’s front yard to see if they could muster up the thrill of delicious fear one more time. Of all the neighborhood kids, Floyd told the best stories.
“If you look in a mirror while you hold a candle in a dark room, and you say three times, ‘El Diablo is my Padre,’ the devil’s face will appear over your left shoulder. I’m telling you the truth. You can try it yourself but remember when you see his face, make the sign of the cross and say, ‘In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, be gone!’ If you don’t do this right away, the devil will go down your left shoulder and into your heart and you’ll have a heart attack and die instantly and go to hell and become the devil’s slave for all time.”
The terror-stricken troop sat quietly contemplating this fate and not a sound could be heard except for the incessant chirping of crickets.
“Let’s call the devil tonight,” Ramona impulsively suggested.
Floyd seemed startled at the challenge but then he upped the ante. “Let’s call La Llorona instead. We can head over to the arroyo and do a ceremony to make her appear.”
Floyd had done it again. Elvis felt a familiar cold sensation crawling up his spine just when he’d thought he was too jaded to have it happen once more.
The adventurers’ numbers quickly began to diminish as soon as it was determined that the plan for the night would be conjuring up La Llorona. Several kids remembered that either their parents wanted them home early or some mysterious chore was still left undone and needed immediate attention. In the end, there were only four foolhardy madcaps left; Floyd, Elvis, Rudy, and Ramona Jaramillo who was never afraid of anything.
The nearest arroyo lay across the neighborhood park, near the school. The night was pitch black so Ramona ran home and returned a few minutes later with a flashlight and the brave troop began its quest.
“Did you guys check out the moon?” Rudy asked.
Elvis looked up and it was a thin, silver sliver in the dark sky.
“It’s a witch’s moon” Floyd whispered. “It’s a sign for sure that she’ll be out wandering around the arroyos tonight.”
They trudged silently in a tight pack following the slim ray of the flashlight that shone on the grass until they had crossed the park and had reached the bank of the arroyo.
“What do we do now?” asked Rudy breaking the silence in a solemn voice.
“We wait,” said Floyd. “We wait and listen for the sound of her sobbing. Ramona, turn off the flashlight. We’ll sit in the dark and ask her to come. If anybody hears crying or sees a red light that means she’s here.”
Elvis suddenly felt sick to his stomach and he had an unbearable urge to jump up and run for the safety of home. The only thing that kept him sitting there was the stronger fear of leaving the company of his friends and exposing himself to the evil spirit somewhere in the blackness of the empty park. He shut his eyes tightly and his breath came out in short, shallow puffs.
Floyd continued, “Remember not to stare at her red light or you’ll become paralyzed and you won’t be able to run away when she comes for you. Stick your fingers in your ears so she doesn’t hypnotize you with her voice and make you fall asleep. Just make the sign of the cross and say Hail Mary’s as loud as you can so she can’t possess you. It’s your only hope.”
Ramona responded to Floyd’s warning in typical Ramona fashion, “I’m not afraid of no pendeja, La Llorona. If she has the huevos to show up, I’ll shove this flashlight down her ugly boca!”
Somehow Ramona’s bravado did very little to reassure Elvis. He looked over at Rudy who was holding his head in his hands and moaning softly. They sat on the edge of the ominous arroyo for what seemed like forever and waited for their impending fate. The minutes dragged on but nothing out of the ordinary took place other than a couple of wandering dogs that came by and sniffed once or twice and went on with their business, whatever that was. Rudy had calmed down and as Elvis’ eyes adjusted to the dark, the terror he felt began to ease away.
Floyd let out a fart and Ramona exclaimed, “Damn, cabrón, that smell is the scariest thing that’s happened tonight.”
Everyone laughed in relief as they realized that she was probably right and their reputations would be greatly elevated when they returned to the neighborhood in one piece. Already they were each privately elaborating their experiences in their own heads to make it seem like they had escaped from the evil clutches of the weeping woman by the skin of their teeth.
Elvis and his gang scrambled to their feet anticipating the warm tortillas and soft beds that were awaiting them, when an unmistakable wailing sound arose from the dark arroyo. It was the most mournful cry imaginable. Rudy let out a terrified whinny and for the first time in Elvis’ memory he heard a tone of vulnerability in Ramona’s voice as she cried out,
“Mama, mama, I wanna go home to mama.”
They stood frozen in terror. Floyd grabbed the flashlight and pointed it waveringly in the direction of the heart-rending shriek. The courageous lot held each other tightly, contemplating their doom when suddenly out of the darkness a pair of glowing eyes appeared and rushed toward them. Then another pair of iridescent eyeballs flew out of the arroyo. Near their feet, two huge alley cats tumbled in a chaotic ball of flying fur and exposed claws.
Screaming at the top of their lungs, the terrified kids ran like the wind across the park and straight to the safety of their homes and families. It was several days before anyone brought up the subject of that night and by consensus they all agreed it was best forgotten.