Miriam’s Well is on Vacation

I have really been enjoying blogging here for almost five months. Thanks so much to readers, contributors, and commentators! I’m about to go on a vacation and take a break–so expect no new posts from May 29 until June 6.
After that, it should be blog as usual, with an emphasis on Patti Smith. I’m looking for contributions on what Patti Smith has meant to you, responses to the new book JUST KIDS, etc. I’m glad to interview you on this subject, too.
Hopefully I’ll also be blogging this summer from a writer’s residency in Iceland. And in the upcoming months highlighting work from writing workshops at the Georgia O’K Museum, THE LAND/An Art Site in Mountainair, Site Santa Fe, and possibly Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos.
And always looking for work that meets the themes of Miriam’s Well. And your ideas and suggestions! Keep in touch.

Flash Fiction by Emily Wingren/The Knife

The Knife

In the middle of the long dirt road was a grey concrete bridge. “Oh a toll bridge” I said. I approached it hoping they wouldn’t mind I was barefoot. The guards in khaki suits saw me. When the venomous spark came into their eyes I knew I was in trouble. I booked it in the opposite direction and they followed. Reaching a curve in the road with a tall concrete wall on the side I saw guards in navy blue uniforms waiting for me. I was surrounded. The only place to escape was up one of the walls on either side of the road, luckily ther. The guards shot at me as I climbed. The first bullet shattered my glasses. I was so grateful that the angle had prevented it from getting my eye. The second bullet went through my right hand. The wall led to a hill which came to an abrupt end. An emerald lawn sat hundreds of feet below. My perception then split in two. I was the guard and I decided once the girl got to the cliff edge and jumped I would throw a knife at her. As the victim I tried to avoid the knife during my fall. When I landed the knife went through my right foot. Hopping on my left foot I felt the hot liquid my circulatory system works so hard to produce seeping out from my wounds. When I finally got to the tea party my friends greeted me warmly. I was embarrassed because I was staining the grass with a puddle of blood. I knew if we were to play spin the bottle no one would want to kiss me.

Poor Poet’s Lentil Recipe from Devon Miller-Duggan

Here is a recipe from a wonderful cookbook–A Cookbook for Poor Poets– I found in a used bookstore (Parnassus) on Rte. 6A on Cape Cod.  The book itself is a wonderful memoir by Ann Rogers about the Provincetown art community in the glory days of the 50s and 60s. It’s a lovely read. Some of the recipes are a little outdated, and some of the relative prices of ingredients have changed radically, but many of the recipes are still delicious and practical. This lentil recipe is a consistent hit.


1 lb. lentils or split peas
3 large onions, choppped
3 T. butter
1/4 t. turmeric
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. allspice
1 t. salt
1 large apple, chopped (or 2, if you feel like it)

Soak the peas/lentils overnight, drain, add fresh water and cook until tender (about 30 minutes to an hour). Drain, but reserve some liquid. Brown the onions in butter (or oil, or oil and butter), add the seasonings and stir well. Now dump in the chopped apple and cook and stir until the apple is tender.  Mix well with the lentils/peas and reheat, adding liquid a little at a time if necessary. Serve with rice as a main dish. This is also a good side dish with lamb, pork or poultry.

7 Ways To NOT Win A Poetry Contest

7 Ways To NOT Win A Poetry Contest

I thought I’d add some provisos to my earlier piece.

1. Disregard the rules

2. Go over the line or word limit–after all, it is your favorite poem!

3. Heck, send whatever you want–a novel chapter, a non-rhyming poem to a rhymed contest, a cycle of poems when you only paid for one. How uptight can these judges be?

4. Use teeny tiny type (maybe no one will notice it is over the line limit) or gigantic cursive or handwriting or attach a photo of your puppy.

5. Submit something pornographic

6. Or a wild-eyed religious rant or

7. Spew hate

These rules might seem obvious–if so, congratulations–you are ahead of the game!

Two Bird Poems by Tom Crawford


My history? Maybe it was always there,
doctor, my irregular heart beat
but I only became aware of it
the first time I heard the Hermit Thrush.
That’s right. But I’d have to go back years
to Kern County, me behind the wheel
of an old, red Buick, engine gone,
car up on blocks, next to a creaking oil well.
It was west of our farm out in the desert.
My legs barely reached the pedals.
I had the window rolled down
to hear the wind, the sand
pepper the fenders, the windshield.
I was happiest alone, leaving home
on my imaginary wheels.

That bird, its song, a long, sad note
fading away out in the sage, beyond the oily
drums, the pump house.

In those days, doctor, an angel followed me
everywhere. We explored the abandoned wells.
Piles of steel casings gone to rust. Mean, black cable—
Paint Brush growing up through the coiled
knots—where horny toads lived.
Wooden derricks, some still standing,
polished to silver from a hundred years
of wind and sand. We could be so quiet
out there, rabbits would come out of hiding for us.

I saw the little thrush only once, years later,
black dots on its chest. Such a shy bird.
Ornithologists call its song
a ‘soft whistle.’ But there is no song
without affliction, doctor. No bird, if we’ll listen,
that does not built its secret nest in us
out of old string and dead feathers.


It’s a noisy gathering
to wave us good bye.
No hard feelings.
Just one reason, like dogs,
I so like birds:
they don’t hold a grudge.
What a fine thing
to let go almost immediately
all the bad things
we’ve done to them.

You can see the bomb falling.
It’s packed with all our good intentions.

The White-rumped Warbler
makes me smile.

If you want to get in here
you can add your bird now.

It’s a damn shame, isn’t it,
how our tool making
just got out of hand.

A word that kills: reclamation.
A word to love: water bird.

Any bird can fly
rings around a rocket
and Mars is no wetland.

The contemplative bittern
lives down deep
in the reeds.
It’s single croak,
when forced to fly,
“Leave me alone.”

This is our “trail of tears,”
but not our Oklahoma.
Everything’s used up
we might have called home.

How To Win A Poetry Contest

I blogged several months ago about judging a poetry contest. Now I am doing it again, and thought I’d re-post, synthesize, and expand my notes. I’m busy reading literally thousands of poems submitted to a national contest (which shall remain anonymous for now). It makes me both sad and happy about poetry. Happy because so many people care. Sad because most of this writing isn’t poetry. I have to pick the top 102. It is easy to reject a submitted “poem” that has absolutely no technique, that is essentially a blurt on the page. In fact, there really aren’t many that actually function as poems either on the level of craft (from title to metaphor) or content (the poem means something about anything, not just an expression of depression or despair.)

If I was to give a little advice to the writers of these poems, I’d suggest:

1. Read a few contemporary poems a week or a book or two a month.

2. Join a poetry class, a group, or at least work with a friend.

3. Read your poem aloud before you consider it finished.

Essentially, poetry isn’t about isolation, and the poem is not an introverted thing.

On the level of technique, you can also follow this checklist:

1. A functional (interesting) title
2. Strong words at the start of each line.
3. Sound resonances and echoes at the end of each line
4. A strong image–an unexpected one
5. Subtle emotion–something the reader can experience without being hit over the head.
6. Comparisons–particularly between inner and outer worlds.

To Avoid:

1. Cliches
2. Easy adjective/noun pairs–like green grass
3. One word titles that say very little, like “Death” or “Autumn”
4. Lots of skinny lines with one word each
5. Stating the obvious

And don’t just submit to contests. The odds are even better if you also consistently submit your work to little and literary magazines.

3 Questions for Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

My relationship to the line is evolving. In most of my poetry up to now, I felt my way through to lineation; what I mean to say is that it was more of an emotional and physical understanding of the line than an intellectual one.  I am now trying to push my poetics into some new areas and so I hope to add the intellectual consideration of the line to my native sense of the line as a breath- and visual- unit.  One of my favorite essays on the line is James Scully’s essay “Line Break,” which is included in the collection Line Break: Poetry as Social Practice (Curbstone Press, 2005).

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

As I alluded to above, I “feel” my way through poetry.  Often, my body swerves at the end of a line I’m writing (or reading)!  I rock my body to the internal rhythms as I write and read, and make curves in the air with my hand which approximate the emotional curve of a poem.  Also, since I love to give readings (that undergraduate double major in drama/theater comes in handy here!), poetry is attached to my body through voice and also through the experience of my body in space as it approaches a poem. I almost feel like I’m telling too much with this answer–that it may feel uncomfortable or too intimate to your readers.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Well, nothing that I can think of right now. To dislike being a poet would be to dislike something fundamental to my way of being and that way lies madness.  I like to think of myself as a relatively well-adjusted artist, so even the thought of disliking my calling is strange to me.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a native Oklahoman returned home after twenty years to to grow good tomatoes; she also completed her Ph.D. in American Literature at the University of Oklahoma. Her second poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible, was published by West End Press (in distribution partnership with the University of New Mexico Press) in March 2009.  Work Is Love Made Visible was awarded both the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry and the 2010 Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. She has been awarded a 2010 residency at the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts and a scholarship for a 2011Vermont Studio Center residency. Jeanetta is currently the Visiting Poet-Scholar at World Literature Today.

For more information, visit http://www.tonguetiedwoman.com.



to the topmost branch of the the cedar tree
that has lost most of its limbs to one storm or another
the mockingbird has returned
he swings with delight on the supple branch
as it bends and sways in the march wind
he chortles his song and everyone else’s
and answers my out-of-tune whistle with glee
does he not notice that each year his favorite tree
stands more bare and scarred, that it
weeps great rivers of fragrant resin and groans
and creaks at the slightest spring breeze or
is this indeed his reason for returning, that
the tree could not survive the winter without
the conviction that the mockingbird would return
to sing of regeneration to newly forming branches
and to bring gladness where once there was only despair

Thinking About: Baba Yaga Laid An Egg

Baba Yaga Laid An Egg by Dubravka Ugresic

“In the absence of all ideologies, the only refuge that remains for the human imagination is the body.”

This book was recommended to me because of course I love (and fear) Baba Yaga. It is part of series in which authors were asked to write based on an ancient myth. This is a post modernist deconstruction of the Slavic witch, by turns amusing, irritating, confusing, and illuminating. As the book says “…while Baba Yaga may not be Oprah Winfrey or Princess Dina, she isn’t a completely obscure mythical nonentity either.”
I don’t know how Baba Yaga came into my childhood. No doubt through books of Russian fairy tales, and the realization that my grandparents were Russian, if Jews (all the more reason to fear her oven.)
This novel is set after the civil wars in the Balkans, after the collapse of the Soviets, after the break up of Yugoslavia. An author takes care of her dying mother and fulfills her wish to travel to Bulgaria, a young graduate student type dogs her steps, a tale within a tale presents three very old women at a spa/casino, and at the end there is a fake/real critical look at all the stories, plus a huge overview of Baba Yaga in numerous mythologies. It is perhaps a bit much, self-conscious, but actually quite satisfying.
It isn’t easy to meet a witch and live to tell the tale.

Lupe and Ruth – Installment Three-by Ana Consuelo Matiella

Lupe and Ruth – Installment Three
Lupe hung up the phone and looked around the bedroom.  She went to the trash can and retrieved the smashed-up box of chocolates and placed them on the dresser.  Reaching for one of the truffles, she heard the squeaky little voices again.
“Don’t do it Lupita, mijita, cutie pie!”
She stopped. Did she really just take stuff out of the garbage and intend to eat it?  She took the truffles into the kitchen, threw them in the sink, turned on the garbage disposal, and watched them whirl down the drain, inhaling the last of the chocolate aroma.
“Wow.” She sighed.
The mice cheered. “¡Qué viva la Lupe!”
Her creative visualization book said the spiritual guides should always be positive and say kind things.  If not, you could fire them.  She fired the wizard.  She could swear she had heard him whisper she had a fat ass after she had a run-in with a pint of rocky road.
After a few minutes passed and she knew the chocolate truffles were gone forever, she felt a sense of triumph.  Whatever insane device her imagination came up with to keep her from eating the truffles, worked. At the same time that she felt triumphant she felt pathetic.  Please.  Little white mice?  Now she felt like crying, but instead of giving in to the tears, she went to her ropero and pulled out her royal blue biking shorts, got her baseball cap, stuffed her hair into it, put her helmet over it and rode off on her bike in the warm sun.  She pedaled hard; the blue sky swallowed her like a tunnel and she forgot about how much she hated her body.
When she got back in a full sweat after her hard ride, she showered, changed into a rust and blue silk sarong she had bought at the Tesuque Flea Market, and drove to Pancho Ortega’s neighborhood in search of the drumming party.
Lupe parked her car and walked through the small passageway that led from the side of the house to the back yard.  She checked herself in the reflection of one of the windows that faced the walkway and she heard a soft whistle coming from the little white mice.  She walked briskly to avoid the second thoughts, the ones that noticed her hips were too big or that she had a double chin.
The crowd was in a festive mood and Lupe was suddenly glad that she had come.  Ruth spotted her and rushed to welcome her and give her a big fake kiss on the cheek with the accompanying “Mwa!”
Lupe mwawed back and hugged her friend.
“I’m so glad you changed your mind!”  Ruth exclaimed taking her by the hand and leading her through the crowd.
Lupe followed Ruth through the narrow path and as she scanned the crowd, she saw him. He was sitting with the rest of the men, drumming.  He was the one with a large conga in between his long legs.  In the five seconds that Lupe had to look at him, she noticed that he was dark and thin and that his complexion had suffered from adolescent acne.  He was balding and the short beard he wore was a white stubble, but his long sinewy arms were confident as he filled the air with the beat of his drum. He looked at her and his dark eyes smiled.
“Uh oh,” the little white mice said in unison.
Lupe’s heart beat fast as she looked back at him and then turned away.
“There’s someone I want you to meet, Dahling” she said. When Ruth was in the right mood she did a bad imitation of her Aunt Esther who apparently was a dead ringer for Zsa Zsa Gabor.
“Wait, Ruthie, not so fast. Let me get a drink first.” Lupe was dreading Ruth’s eagerness to hook her up with some guy, any guy, just to get her to “practice.” Practice, is what Ruth said Lupe needed in order to get better at finding the right guy.  But at this moment, Lupe was having a hard time trying to keep her heart from jumping out of her throat and into love at first sight.
“It’s not what you think.  Come on.” Ruth dragged her by the arm and Lupe took another back glance at the drummer. Was she imagining things or was he looking at her too?
They approached a round table where a stately woman sat surrounded by several admirers.
“Isabelle,” Ruth said ceremoniously, “this is my best friend Lupe.”
Isabelle was what Lupe considered “pleasingly plump,” that luxurious label a woman gets to wear when she’s over sixty and can afford to sacrifice her body to pâté and champagne.
Isabelle took both Lupe’s hands, “Hello, Lupe, a pleasure to meet you.” Isabelle’s eyes were a deep blue slate and her weathered skin shined with a combination of expensive moisturizer and the sun’s harsh vitality.  Her piercing gaze accentuated her crow’s feet and made them beautiful.
“You are lovely, my dear.  Sit down and tell me about yourself.”
Ruth looked on with an approving smile.
Lupe had heard of Isabelle from Ruth for a decade — she was Ruth’s psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of New Mexico.  A New York transplant from the 70’s, she had become famous for her work with Native American shamanism and her own brand of Jungian transformational psychotherapy.
“I had been wanting Lupe to meet you for years, ” Ruth said, “and  here you are!  I didn’t even know you were back. What a coincidence!”
“There is no such thing as a coincidence, dear. Have I taught you nothing?”  Isabelle laughed and her crow’s feet crinkled.
Ruth said, “Dr. Goldstein has been living in Copper Canyon for the past year, studying under a Taraumara shaman and finishing her book, The Power Within: A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Wholeness.”
“I have advance copies in the car, and I would love for you to have one,” Isabelle said.
Ruth touched her heart and bowed her head. “Thank you so much.  I’m honored.”
“Perhaps, you can share it with Lupe.”  Isabelle said.
“I would love to read it,” Lupe said, “Ruth has told me a lot about you.”
“It’s good to meet you physically, Lupe, but I already knew you energetically.”
“Really?”  Lupe said glancing at Ruth.  Lupe made woo-woo eyes at Ruth, hoping her friend would respond to the secret code they had developed over the years.  It was  limited but succinct. Woo-woo eyes were an indication that  some kind of paranormal phenomenon had transpired or was about to.
Ruth, however, missed her cue.
“Yes,” Isabelle went on, “although you see me as a white woman, I am really an indigenous Mexican.  The body of the European is just the package.  In my heart,  I am Raramuri.”
“Raramuri?”  Lupe asked trying to hide her disbelief.
“Yes, Taraumara.  Raramuri is what we call ourselves.”
“I see,” Lupe said , still trying to make eye contact with Ruth. “That is very interesting.”
Isabelle didn’t notice Lupe’s search for Ruth’s acknowledgement and said, “I think you and I would have a lot to talk about.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Lupe said as she stared at Ruth, this time not caring if Isabelle noticed.  When she caught Ruth’s attention, Lupe made her woo-woo eyes go wide.
“Will you excuse us?” Ruth asked abruptly.
“Of course, whatever turns you on…” Isabelle said waving her amber and turquoise bejeweled hand.
When Ruth and Lupe were safely locked in the small bathroom in the hallway Lupe said, “Okay, you know I don’t want a therapist, right?  I already have the little white mice!”
“She’s the best there is.” Ruth said.
“You set this up, didn’t you?” Lupe hissed.
“No! I’m shocked that you would think that.  It’s a coincidence.  I didn’t even know she was back!” Ruth said defending herself in a loud whisper.
“Didn’t you hear what Madame Freud said?  There’s no such thing as a fucking coincidence!” Lupe’s black eyes almost popped out of her head.
“Honestly, Lupe.  What do you think I am?”
“Life-long psychotherapy works for you, Ruth, but it doesn’t mean I have to do it.”
“I swear to God, I didn’t know she was going to be here, Lupe.  Don’t you think it’s synergistic that we run into the woman who was responsible for my life’s transformation at a party?  She never goes to parties!  You have no idea how rare it is to see Isabelle in public.”
Lupe noticed the admiration in Ruth’s voice. “You think very highly of her, don’t you?”
“She changed my life, Lupe.”
“Well, I’m not into it and you need to chill out.”
“You could benefit,” Ruth said.
“Okay sorry, I’m getting pushy.”
“I know you mean well,”  Lupe said softening her tone and putting her head on her friend’s shoulder, “but you need to stop it, Ruthie.”
“Okay, I’m sorry,”  Ruth said and then added, “Borrón, borrón,” in a thick American accent.  Lupe had taught Ruth some Spanish expressions in exchange for Yiddish ones.  “Borrón” in Spanish was the approximate equivalent of “erase.”  Anytime the two friends offended each other they would say, “Borrón, borrón,” requesting a clean slate.  In exchange, Lupe was allowed to say “oy vey,”  without Ruth cringing.  Lupe eventually changed it to “¡ay vey!”  the perfect Ruth and Lupe combo.
“Okay, now to the important stuff,” Lupe said changing the tone of the conversation. “Who’s the drummer? The tall mulatto guy with the acne scars?”
“Oh, him… We’ve never met but I think his name is Raul de Alejandro and he’s from Puerto Rico. He’s a doctor in Albuquerque.”
“A doctor? What a catch!”  The little white mice called out.
“He’s gorgeous.” Lupe said.
“Isabelle might know him.”
There was a light but urgent knock on the bathroom door.
“Are we done?” Ruth asked.
“Yeah, we’re done, but no more referrals, okay?”
The man waiting to use the bathroom was wearing a sarong just like Lupe’s only it was turquoise and purple. He looked at the two women coming out and smiled liked he knew something he shouldn’t.
“God, I wonder what he thought we were doing in there.” Ruth asked.
“He’s wearing a skirt, Ruth.  He understands.”  Lupe retorted.