I Remember 2014

This was written in response to Irene Zahava, who created a wonderful communal poem–

Here is mine in its entirety. Try your own!

I remember turning 60 at Monument Valley among red rock monoliths, infinitely older than human life.

I remember my left-handed friend with whom I shared a name dying slowly in hospice.

I remember my demented stroked father saying: it’s so unusual that we get on; but he didn’t mean him and me.

I remember watching a Tibetan monk in sneakers begging and a woman in rhinestone trimmed chiffon purdah on Miami Beach.

I remember how I knew my daughter had named the little chocolate lab “Faye” for the fairy folk.

I remember my student comparing his pueblo to King Arthur’s court.

I remember how mad I was when you pointed out my neck is wrinkled.

I remember sitting in box seats for the first time in my life at “Madame Butterfly.”

I remember staying up all night reading the Tarot cards next to my account book when I got a 4% cut in pay.

I remember turning a corner in the autumn wind and not caring about the headlines or my own story.

The Blog Is On Vacation and so is The Editor!

Miriam’s Well is on vacation until January 1, 2015. Enjoy the winter holidays!

We’ll be back, with a bunch of interviews with poets, an essay on poetry on sand, a review of the best Baba Yaga novel ever, a visit to a sustainable adobe art site, more from contributing writers and new-to-us writers, a preview of Kathleen Lee’s forthcoming novel about China in the 1980’s, and a continuing look at habits—good and bad.

As always, I welcome contributions from you, the blog’s readers. Particularly interested in haiku, tanka, haibun, and personal essay. Also on the lookout for quirky musings and images. And coverage of local events, calls for submissions, small press, and views of land art.

I will be reading and responding to email during the break at msagan1035@aol.com.

Thank you—it has been a great year.


Eccentric teapot,SFCC

When I Was Young, I Put Myself in Harm’s Way: Poem by Miriam Sagan

When I Was Young, I Put Myself in Harm’s Way

hoping to get hurt
or at least
fall off the back of a motorcycle
and break my heart

how, now past sixty, I’ll still
go out of my way
and travel some cardinal direction or other
saying, I just want to see
(volcano, glacier, Miami Beach)

before it is too late
for me, or it,
and put myself in the way of beauty
and let her have her way with me.

International Interview: Nalini Priyadarshni interviews D. Russel Micnhimer

What prompted you to begin writing poetry?
Being in love. I was in the Marine Corps and she was 1500 miles away so we exchanged innumerable letters, long letters and I found myself expressing my feelings in more, let us say, flowery ways. I’m sure the poems then weren’t really any good but I was getting my feelings across and that was the idea. I think something similar prompts many people to start writing poems—and some of us don’t have the sense to stop.
You have traveled all over the world and continue to travel around US. How does it affect your writing?
That is a difficult question. There are still many places in the world I have never been to, of course. I think the thing that travel does is expand one’s ideas about what is the norm. I have lived in jungles with only a hammock for a bed and flown in jets to some of the most highly populated cities in the world. Each culture and the people in it are different. I guess that having experienced a broad range of differences in real life opens me up to a broader range of language use and meaning that presumably percolates down into my poetry sometimes.  Each language has it’s own rhythms and even if I don’t know the language, if I am immersed in a culture those patterns are automatically incorporated into my language producing engines and sooner or later appear, usually well incorporated into my poetry.
What does it mean to you to be a poet?
It is one of many labels that I might apply to myself if I were to try to define who it is I have been during my life. It would certainly be one of the more gratifying descriptions I might wish my memory to be associated with. But I am proud of the work that I have done in the field of archaeology, specifically rock art also.
As a poet it means that I have a degree of ability to communicate with language that is more advanced than most folks who are not called poets. Some would call poetry art and if one agrees with that then it means I am an artist.
I guess at the base it means that I enjoy playing with language much like others might enjoy a sport with a ball for instance. It is a pastime that pleasures me; and it pleasures me most when I have done it well. If I communicate what I intended to with my words then I have succeeded.
Do you have any parting words for budding writers or any words of wisdom to share?
Anyone can profess to be a poet or a writer. The thing that separates the real ones from the rest is that they write. Write, write, write and then write some more. That and study the craft. It is a craft and many have practiced it before, seek to learn from them. To not do so deprives the poet of a huge arsenal of useful tools that may be employed. Sure, there may be a select few who really do not need education in order to write decent poetry, but they are few and far between. At least that has been my experience. Reading and listening to other poets is something I include in that process of learning. Take note of what you like. Few find their own voice over night; some never do but if you don’t keep writing it is guaranteed you never will. Remember too that there is not an editor who is going to come around and ask if you have a box of poetry under the bed that you would like to share. So share it at every chance you get in as many ways as you can.  Have faith that simply by doing and doing and doing, your work will improve.  And with any luck, some day you will be writing poetry in a manner that matches the voice you hear in your head–your voice.  And then you can get busy and write some more poetry.
You have lived a very unique life, a life really individual and fearless.
True that. Though there are times I’ve been scared shitless!  I have always chosen my own path.  Like I have often said, there is the right way and the wrong way and then there is the Micnhimer way–that’s the one I can not help but follow.  By doing that one comes to accept the entire responsibility for the out come.  Accepting that responsibility gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and who I am.


D. Russel Micnhimer has been writing poetry for forty five years while working at a variety of jobs and traveling through much of the world pursuing his interests in the archaeology of ancient civilizations and rock art they have left behind. He is author of several books on rock art, fiction and poetry including his latest collection Notes to Be Left with the Gatekeeper published by Global Fraternity of Poets for which he was recently bestowed the honor of Poet Laureate by The Poetry Society of India. His collection of ghazals, Lotus Mirage and another collection of his early poems are due later this year. He holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon on the west coast of the United States. 

Nalini Priyadarshni is a poet, writer, editor and amateur photographer. Her work has appeared at Up the Staircase Weekly, eFiction India, Mad Swirl, Crescent Magazine, The Riveter Review, Writes & Lovers Café,The Gambler, Camel Saloon, Earl of Plaid,CUIB-NEST-NIDO, and The Open Road Review besides numerous anthologies including I Am Woman, Awakening of She, Art of Being Human etc. Her forthcoming publications include Maelstrom Journal, Undertow Tanka, 52 Loves and Phoenix Photo and Fiction. She lives in India with her husband and two feisty kids. 

Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis by Bibi Deitz

Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis

My mother has a flip phone. Some, like me, might say she’s caught in another time—say, the year 2000. I have a brand new, gold iPhone 6, but I can hang with the neo-analog. A few months ago, when my mother was visiting me in Brooklyn, I introduced her to emojis. She loved them so much that she considered upgrading to a smartphone for a moment—but just for a moment. We can’t exchange them, of course: In this modern era, different generations of technology come with their own languages; we create new iterations of communication so quickly that a years-old phone cannot talk to a new one dexterously, like someone speaking Japanese to an Italian. So instead we started making up our own emojis, which I call imojis, for “imagined emojis,” or, more specifically, momojis, for obvious reasons. Here are some of them:

From my mother:
“Little drawing of a sock” (accompanying “I found my socks!”):
The imoji that started it all. I can’t remember how or why this was important enough to send a text about; but, then again, these days just about anything is important enough to send via text.

From my mother:
“Little picture of a mom hugging and kissing her daughter”:
The genius thing about a describe-your-own-emoji, much like a choose-your-own-adventure, is that one can visualize such an emoji without having to use the same hackneyed picture over and over. Don’t get me wrong: I adore emojis, and the news that 250 more are to be released soon is some of the best news I’ve heard in a while. That said, there are only so many times that one can send the two girls in leotards holding hands emoji before it starts to lose its luster.

From me:
“Big grin on pretty woman’s face”:
This was in response to my mother’s long-standing variation on the ancient smiley face (the classic colon followed by a close-parenthesis), which is, simply, “smile.”

From my mother:
“Honorable mother smiles beneficently upon honorable daughter”:
This was in response to my “Big grin on pretty woman’s face” emoji. Another great thing about the tailor-made emoji is that the process allows for personality to shine through. While it is true that the way in which one chooses to use emojis shows character—am I sending obvious emojis all the time, such as smiley faces and hearts, or do I go the distance sometimes with, say, a saxophone or an pot of honey?—emojis are inherently prefab. The difference between my imoji and my mother’s response is plain, and that’s part of what makes these little technological gems so precious.

From me:
“A post office on fire, as in fiery hell”:
This pretty much speaks for itself. I was at the post office near my apartment in Brooklyn. It’s notorious for the length of its slow-moving lines. I had to wait, because I needed postage for a letter to London. Come to think of it, though, why isn’t there an picture of a post office on fire in the existing emoji lexicon? This seems important, and universal. Aren’t most post offices akin to insufferable infernos?

From my mother:
“Emoji of mom, hoping no lasting effects will accrue”:
Here is a little bit of a sad one. After my mother came for a visit, during which we marveled over the Brooklyn leaves red and orange and yellow in their mid-autumn coats, she sent a photo of the tree outside of her house in New Jersey accompanied by this text. It was a mostly lovely visit, with the exception of a difficult half hour in which we couldn’t decide whether to go to the Met or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and somehow this transposed and garbled to become a feeling of not being welcome in my home for my mother. I’m not sure how this happened, as is the case with every argument—the teacup isn’t washed or the window is carelessly left open and, without a roadmap back, two people start fighting about who is more to blame for an antediluvian injustice—but we were able to let it go quickly and enjoy the yellow-rumped warblers and the acme of leaves in full color. Later, once my mother had returned home, this sweet sentiment came through, on the wings of satellites.

From my mother:
“Emoji of a mom standing looking lovingly at her dear daughter from afar, eyes soft and arms slightly outstretched in a gentle, almost hugging shape”:
By far, this was the most elaborate momoji to date. No further elaboration necessary, but can’t you just see it so vividly?

From me:
“Emoji of a daughter throwing hands in the air excitedly and sticking tongue out to taste snow falling next to emoji of mother clapping hands and smiling wearing big blue down coat and large winter hat”:
In response to: “It’s snowing!” I mean, hey—why not?

From my mother:
“Hugging mom emoji”:
I think this is my favorite. Simple, direct, charming. And full of love.

From me:
“Daughter frolicking in the snow emoji”:
The New York tri-state area’s first real snowfall of the year provoked quite a flurry of momojis, ending with this one, sent from a cozy restaurant on Union Square while snow fell, soft and insistent, outside picture windows. I was not, in fact, frolicking—rather, I was eating burgers with three girlfriends—but I could not send four hamburger emojis, so I was forced to be creative instead.

Made up emojis—or, as my mother sometimes spells them, “emogis” (because, you know, she’s my mom. Also, she’s 60.)—are so much better than actual emojis. I love emojis, and I use them, sometimes a little too liberally, to express the gamut of emotion within a medium that is stark and bare-boned and often cryptic. I am grateful for emojis. But sometimes, when the right one doesn’t exist (I’m looking at you, Unicode Consortium—where’s the post office on fire emoji? The hugging mom emoji? The wolf emoji, the clam emoji, the motorcycle and bassinet and ice skate emoji?), imojis are germane in a way that lexical emojis are not.

After I wrote this essay, my mother and I exchanged a series of texts about the phenomenon of liking the way one looks in a photograph after the fact, but in the moment thinking one looks crazy/awful/like a dead rat. “Perhaps later we are released from whatever critical thoughts we had of ourselves at the time, because we have forgotten them,” my mother wrote. I agreed that that was part of it, but pointed out that later we still harbor critical thoughts of ourselves. A moment later, she responded by saying, “Yes, but now they are new critical thoughts, and the old ones have faded a bit to make room for the new!” And then, folded into the crevices of the text like chocolate chips into cake batter, a new momoji: “Mom smiles softly, and a bit wistfully, as she sits in her chair with her stripey nightgown on, thinking of so many examples of this.”

It hit me then that the best part of imojis is that they occasion an opportunity to describe our feelings and actions in real time—a new frontier in the cascade of fresh opportunities for communication as provided by the phenomenon of text messages in general and emojis in specific. Sometimes, to be sure, a smiley face with hearts for eyes or an umbrella with raindrops or a helicopter or bicycle or palm tree or alligator or Statue of Liberty is all that we need. But when emojis fail—when a lone mushroom or caterpillar or slice of cake is not sufficient, there are imojis. And they unleash a fount of expression that is often closed even in face-to-face dialogue, because imojis afford the opportunity to express real and deep emotion in nonthreatening and adorable way.

“Daughter sits pondering momojis and imojis and emojis and life at large at a desk in Brooklyn, thinking of her powerful and astonishing love for her mother while snow melts in New Jersey and already-melted snow evaporates in New York, as James Blake plays and wind blows and someone somewhere is having the best day of their life.” Daughter, out.

Bibi Deitz lives and writes in Brooklyn. Recent work has appeared in Bookforum, The Rumpus, Berfrois and BOMB, and is forthcoming from Marie Claire.

Horoscope Haikus by L.J. Mulry

Horoscope Haikus
by L.J. Mulry
I decided to read my horoscope and come up with a haiku inspired by its message.
Date unknown
If you’ve always felt the desire to write, now is the time to take the plunge, Taurus. You certainly don’t lack the imagination! Your problem may be that you have difficulty taking your prose seriously. Don’t think about being “A Writer.” Just write! …
Always felt desire,
Lacking imagination.
Don’t think about it.
November 30, 2014
There may be a bit of aggravation in a part of your life that’s urging you to get up and do something, Taurus. It could be that you’re getting overly emotional about a certain issue, and that you need to consider more of the cold, hard facts of what’s really going on. You could be missing something obvious simply because you’re so caught up in your emotional drama.
Caught up in drama,
Missing the obvious urge.
Consider cold facts.
Love in 2015 for Taurus Singles: Any number of fated meetings and connections could happen this year for you, Taurus, so stay sharp and respect your heart’s hunches and opinions. Being so popular this year, you could test of a wide range of romantic possibilities. Love always comes with its share of charm and illusion, and you may see plenty of that in February.
You may see plenty;
Tests of charm and illusions.
Fated meetings.
November 24-November 30, 2014: Home and family matters can be a source of joy and happiness right now, particularly as some good news may be about to come your way. In addition, you may be very excited about the potential for creating wealth. The current alignment entices you to explore schemes and ideas with a view toward becoming financially secure. Aided and abetted by Mars in practical Capricorn, this combination of planning and inspiration can go a long way toward helping you fulfill your dream.
Explore schemes and views.
The alignment entices.
Creating can source joy.
November 28, 2014: This is a confusing period for all of us, Taurus. But no doubt you’ve noticed this. In such circumstances, some people become more rigid than ever because they resist dramatic change. They try to hold on to tradition. Your Taurus sensitivity makes you very receptive to the past, but current conditions should inspire you to let go of some of your convictions.
A confusing time,
Resist dramatic changes.
Let go to inspire.
November 29, 2014: Your passions have been stirring like a caged animal for the past several days, Taurus. Now is the time to let them out. Some of what you express may elicit surprise or disapproval, but that’s no reason to stay silent. If you don’t express yourself, illness may result. Your goal should be to be true to your inner self. Ultimately, that’s the only way to be happy and healthy.
Your expressions may
Elicit surprise, or doubt
It’s time! Let them out.
Passion is like a
Caged animal, stirring the past.
Illness may result.

3 Questions for Gary Moody

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
Assembling a LINE may be the most strenuous and exhausting task, or choice, other than choice of title, undertaken in making a poem. LINE is the CHOICE that locates WORD within space and time. Organically, a line is bound by breath, specifically a reader’s lung capacity, one’s ability to modulate the exhalation which becomes speech or song and the comfortable (or uncomfortable depending on one’s ascetic leanings or aging anatomy) duration of that exhalation. Artificially, (with ART the operative root) it is bound by the layout of the printed artifact, the page’s margin, the impulsive white space in which silence blossoms. Rigor may demand that a line always be the shortest distance between two linguistic points or two inhalations, which implies economy and brevity, a staccato of breaths. Yet the oral tradition subverts line brevity, with each teller adding a few more syllables to the river of sounds that comprise the line, thus making it her or his own. Selfishly, (no doubt in response to my own mortality which I hope to hold at bay for a bit longer) I prefer in my own work a line that undulates across the page’s field, one that denies the tiny (or lengthy) winters of white space, one that creates a fertile space for the inevitable dialectic between narrative and lyric, which I believe essential to poetry. As I revise, I try to impart, not only a rhythm of syllables to the line but also a rhythm of image, in which the image itself becomes a counterpoint rhythm to the syllabic, and marries the breath to meaning. This may be why I tend to write in longer lines than some. I also am intrigued by the innate ability of the line to disguise. I once wrote a set of eighteen haiku, each of which consisted of seventeen syllables, and three “LINES”. When arranged on a landscaped page in three columns, the series of haiku became several different poems, which could be read true to a column, down, then up to begin down again, and again, or as an 18 line poem composed of fractured lines across the page (think Cortazar’s Hopscotch). The aggregate of words in this piece is always a finite set, but the choice of LINE renders that finite set into myriad readings.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
If we believe science, when we listen to, or write, poetry, the chemistry of our brain changes, and our body’s response catapults us into a state akin to rapture. I am old enough to remember writing with a pen, or pencil, or the point of a knife against the back side of shed pine-bark when paper was not available. In those days the physical act of writing inclined a different motion than most of us use today, the flow of elbow, wrist, and hand vs. the positioned tap of fingers on a keyboard. I often wonder at the physical way WRITING has evolved, from cave paintings, to petroglyphs, to hieroglyphs, to chronicle, to history; or with the oral tradition from word, to fragment, to line, to lyric, to narrative, to epic, and throughout that evolution, it is the body that produces, through some sort of rhythmic repetitive motion, scratches on stone, etchings on kilned clay, breath across the tongue and teeth, vibrations within the ear, understood patterns of word and image, usually about something experienced by the body of the  one who records the event, whether in memory or imagination, using  the known to  evoke the unknown, possible or impossible, it is always the body that writes, that produces a language bound by the body’s mortal capability to express that which is sensed, desired, imagined, by heart and mind. Fortunately, I am well enough to often venture out into the high desert landscape of our world, and as such much of my writing deals with things, events, or creatures I have experienced directly while wandering the environs I’ve had the good (or ill) fortune to inhabit. It is my body’s memory of the plains, sand and waters of the Texas Gulf Coast, the creeks, rivers, and deciduous forests of Virginia’s piedmont, the Siberian taiga, the Sangre de Cristo and Caja del Rio of northern New Mexico, which I tend to draw on as a basis for my writing. My own body as both animal and human, and its relationship to the animals I love (or abhor) whether domestic or wild, lover, dog, hawk, or human, shapes my work. Even in those pieces, imagined rather than witnessed, I try to evoke the physicality of the page-made landscape by mirroring the known reaction to that landscape of my own body or to somehow render the landscape’s effect on the bodies of the sentient creatures that inhabit my work. Ultimately the life of the body, and its inevitable mortality, inevitably and inescapably inform my work.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
There are a few aspects of the POULTRY BIZNESS, that I truly abhor, things that I find discouraging, stultifying, and strangling. However, I confess I have been blessed and fortunate to be associated with a terrific and kind local publisher, Red Mountain Press, which has been patient and supportive with my idiosyncrasies. And, as any of us who live in Santa Fe know, we are all blessed with an extremely supportive and huge poetry community, containing generous venues for reading such as Teatro Paraguas and James McGrath’s Orchard, fine literary bookstores such as Op-Cit or Collected Works, and numerous writing groups that support each others’ work. Those are the good things. The harder thing is the economic reality of trying to get one’s work published and out in the world, given formatting constraints of presses, distribution costs, consignment costs, time and effort to publicize the work or reading events through social media. This second book of mine OCCOQUAN, became quite an effort. Originally the press and I decided to go with a wide paged book on somewhat oversized paper to accommodate the poems’ long lines, then bowing to costs, we selected the standard 6” x 9” which meant a complete reformatting of the text and redistribution of my usually long lines. About ninety percent through that effort my computer contracted a fatal virus which even infected my back-up files, causing the need to completely wipe my drives and begin all over again. Then there are the horror stories I’ve heard from other writers, the books finished, edited yet never published, bookstores that never pay the writer for the books they’ve sold, presses requesting that poets work on fundraising, the artificial caste system of published vs. self published poets, the puppy-mill way MFA programs turn out an unlimited quantity of graduates who are doomed to the slave-world of being underpaid adjunct faculty forced to live below the poverty line., What might be most troubling about the POULTRY BIZNESS, is the inevitable epiphany (or perhaps suspicion) that  we who suffer the addiction to writing actually suffer from the modern plague of grapho-mania, the certainty that each of us need to be a writer, that written or spoken art is still somehow important to humanity, and without which we will surely perish from this mortal earth, but at least, if we afford a book or possess a library card or find a hook-up to the grid we can read some of the most glorious stuff, ancient or current,  ever created.
Gary Worth Moody’s first collection of poems is HAZARDS OF GRACE (Red Mountain Press 2012). His second, OCCOQUAN, (Red Mountain Press, 2015), depicts the struggles of women for emancipation and suffrage, in the environs of Virginia’s infamous Occoquan Workhouse. He is currently working on a third manuscript with the working title SKINNED LIGHT which considers witch burnings, martyrdom by fire, immolations, catastrophe’s of flame, and the burning of Moctezuma’s aviaries by Hernán Cortés. A falconer, Gary lives in Santa Fe with the artist and writer, Oriana Rodman, two dogs and a red-tail hawk.

There is a sound that is not the first sound that comes
after the cartridge clicks into place inside
the rifle’s chamber,
after-the shot cottontail’s mewl,
or the scuff of dragging its shattered spine
across lava toward unsheltering
yucca after boots crush cinders before the bleeding
rabbit is lifted and the furred neck
twisted into its dying
crack, and the quiet of the dead thing being lain on
the bait tab of the just now set steel trap,
rusted jaws contorted
into position to sever anything innocent enough
to place paw or muzzle
against the husk that once bolted
through light quick enough to be almost invisible
before the hollow point bullet shattered
its life, before the long road under
spinning clouds takes me to the canyon’s mouth
where I park in settling dust
the southwest wind sifts from the jeep’s tires,
climb out and open the door for the already prancing
black-tongued dog, and empty
a water bottle into the plastic
bowl for the must be completed ritual before she runs,
a blurred thing, across desert
as I wander under morning
sun, face down, searching for flaked points, jasper and obsidian
from vanished
hunters, the corn-growers’
limed shard remnants, and lava hollowed by hands grinding grain,
until agony shrills from the arroyo’s
cut just off the road as the dog
jerks against the trap’s fast chain, biting the metal that holds,
screams as I reach
for her, trying to steady the iron,
as her jaws find my hand’s blood, clamp down until
with foot and hand I finally
separate the steel’s grip from her left
front leg just above her tan paw and then she is loose and running
again though only on three
legs as I bleed under sun
and the sounds I hear are breath and juniper creak beneath a raven’s wing
blistering November wind
just as the uncaught pup
finds her fourth leg and, without lameness, races
out of the canyon’s crease
into morning’s untrapped light.