Monday Feature: Writing by Michaela Kahn

I’ve invited Santa Fe writer Michaela Kahn to contribute to Miriam’s Well this and hopefully more Mondays. Please welcome her by reading and commenting! Here she responds to the theme of invisible borders.


In thinking on the question of “invisible borders” and where I poke and prod at them in my own writing, there were numerous borders that sprang to mind – time and its illusory past and present, that strange place where memory and story weave together, the borders between what is human and what is not human. But what struck me most, what kept coming back up, was an intersection of two borders. First, the border between what we see in nature and what is there, sort of vibrating right beyond that visual experience, and second, the border between the living and the dead.
One of my favorite lines of all time is James Joyce’s finale from his story, The Dead: “… he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
For me, “the dead” in Joyce’s line are not static. They are not merely bones in a cemetery beneath the snow. For me that line, as the culmination of the story, was about the dead as presences, as active in the lives of the living – influencing us and haunting us, catching at our thoughts in odd moments, changing even as we change.
For some reason for me, this idea of the dead as dynamic is connected to nature. In the way that we can’t necessarily see with our eyes the energy pathways that zig-zag back and forth between tree and sky, earth and sagebrush, water and Canyon Towhee – we can’t quite see that energy of the dead zig-zagging around and between all of us.
Sunday, November 29th was the 22nd anniversary of my father’s death, and thinking of invisible borders I remembered a short sketch I wrote two years ago which I think plays with these themes. I had just moved back to Santa Fe after an absence of about seven years and was getting to know the landscape again.

Taking a walk on the 20th anniversary of my father’s death

It feels as if the light has traveled ninety-three million miles to reach this valley. Only light so long-traveled would find a way to distinguish between each and every dry rabbitbrush flower, to get inside the seed-heads of the blue grama grass and hold each grain separate from the next.
The path runs along the railroad tracks, through waste-land filled with trees and abandoned boxcars tagged with phrases like “thizz or die” and “revolution in process”. It winds through hunched junipers, cholla cactus, sage, and yucca, past neighborhoods of squat adobe houses painted light brown, pale ochre.
Every night the sun goes down in an orange mass of flame behind the distant Chuska mountains and color fills the valley, hits the Sangre de Cristo range turning them pink and red.
He isn’t here. He’s four hundred and seventy-eight miles southwest. But not really. No bones. A box of ash buried in a desert cemetery dotted with red-flowered ocotillo and palo verde trees. A marker that says his name. But it feels close. He feels close. The same desert for hundreds of red-sand miles. He would have liked it here. Sharp shadows. Peregrine falcon in the cactus outside the window. The sound of a Raven’s wings beating the air above your head—so much louder than you expect.
Maybe that’s why I’ve come back. Not the sunsets or the sweet smell of pinyon fires in the air. Not the light. Not even the way the canopies of the winter-bare cottonwoods look like nets of smoke from a distance. Maybe it is because I can feel him here.
Dusk dulls the distinctions between things. Yucca blur into rabbitbrush. The junipers turn in on themselves and go to sleep. Somewhere in the distance northwest comes the crisp yip of a coyote looking for its pack.

In Response To the Question About Invisible Borders

Haibun: Parallel lines–By Angelee Deodhar–India

Parallel lines

In eight decades only one Indian film has captured the world’s imagination, a glitzy portrayal of poverty within which lies the poignant side of this country’s dilemma, the unwanted, unwashed, unfed children foraging with vermin for the dregs of a meal. For this the film won eight Oscars.

At the same ceremony, a documentary about an Indian girl, with a congenital deformity also won acclaim when a team of dedicated philanthropists restored her smile. The confused but happy parents are shown cuddling a shy little girl who clings to her mothers’ sari ,wondering why so many cameras are pointed at her. There was a time no one would play with her in her village…today she has new clothes, new friends. The air is thick, with the shouts of the paparazzi.

How will one slum dog help the hungry children eking out an existence besides the railway lines?

hawk’s shadow
the songbird’s trill
suddenly shortened

Previously published in the Spring /Summer issue of Frogpond, 2009, April 24, 2015

Dollhouse Sized Gallery

This is so cool! My Columbus, Ohio relatives turned me on to the work of Stephanie Rond, who is also a street artist.

S.Dot Gallery is a dollhouse sized gallery in Columbus Ohio. Since 2011 we have specialized in contemporary tiny sized artwork. Exhibitions are rotated on a four week schedule. If you are interested in making a purchase or showing with us please contact the director Stephanie Rond at stephanierond(at)






What “invisible borders” do you seek to address and cross in your writing, and why?

I’ve finished my interview for “Santa Fe Literary Review” which will be in the 2016 issue. Questions came from student staff. “Invisible Borders” is the theme of the forthcoming issue.

What “invisible borders” do you seek to address and cross in your writing, and why? How do you do this?
I’ve been obsessed with borders most of my life. I grew up in northern New Jersey where the border was between us and the glittering city of Manhattan across the Hudson River. Having lived in New Mexico for thirty years, I’m hyper aware of the border between the US and Mexico and what it means to cross. That border is visible, but invisible too. My grandparents were immigrants who didn’t speak English when they came to this country-—more borders.
Physical boundaries are a huge theme in my writing, even if it’s just how my westside neighborhood was re-defined by putting St. Francis through it decades ago. More personally, women’s experience is still hidden from view, even now. I like to cross that invisible border and bring it into the light. The same with disability—in my case a so-called “invisible disability” although all I need to do is use a cane to make it visible.
The greatest border, for me, is between silence and words. So much of human life is hidden in shame or fear, insecurity, or just plain silence. Words—poetry, fiction, memoir, and more—give life to what is hidden, silenced. I like to cross that border daily—and move from the repressed into the expressed—for myself, and with others.

On-Line Poetry Class With Miriam Sagan Starts in January

Hi Far Flung Writers–my poetry class, on-line at SFCC ( has a few spots. It’s an intro class: pantoums, haiku, prose to poetry, elegy, love poem, pastoral, sestina…well, that doesn’t sound so introductory, but it is! We’ll do some collaborative forms, word decks, and individual field trips. Class is on Canvas–very easy software. 15 weeks–in your pajamas? A chance to write, share, and get feedback. Very inexpensive! “See” you!

Check out English 222, Intro to Poetry, on-line, Sagan, credit class.

Glad to answer questions.

Albuquerque Poetry Post

There is a lovely poetry post in Albuquerque.


The curators say: We’ve had the pole up for about 3 years; when we first put it up it was just plastic sleeves for the poems and a simple sign- since then we’ve had a metal artist we know make us a steel sign and steel frames for the poems. We know lots of folks who make sure their regular neighborhood walk passes the pole, and we’ve even had a school field trip come to the pole, and all the kids left their own poems behind for us to post! Our block also has a little library and a magazine exchange. Thanks for the interest!

Current poem by Joan Logghe:


Click to see text.

Report and Haiga from Nepal: Michael G. Smith

image copy 3

dawn kora
cold bricks
worn smooth


Michael G. Smith is touring Nepal and doing volunteer work. The Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu is the most revered Buddhist site in Nepal, especially for Tibetan Buddhists. The stupa’s iconic spire was heavily damaged in the April 2015 earthquake and is being re-built. Buddhist practitioners from all over the world come to circumambulate the stupa in a practice called kora. Practitioners can be found walking twenty-four hours a day. At 5 AM in the morning Michael would be walking kora with hundreds of others.

Obey: A Poem by Lorenzo Atencio


After “Surrender” by Joanne Dominique Dwyer in Belle Laide

Evil has come to New Mexico
To be exorcised is to be cleansed
In islam the arugya repairs damage caused by black magic.
Some parents don’t buckle their children.
Peace keepers use guns to keep the peace.
Yahweh created the universe with words.
New Mexico abolished the death penalty for capital murder in 2009.
Black smoke smudged the heavens over the penitentiary in 1980.
The penalty for disobeying the state police is death by firing squad.
Annie Oakley could shoot and hit the thin side of a card at 30 paces.
The look of kill is the face of evil.
Mother in van transporting little mischiefs, runs.
Friday night in America is time to de-stress.
A California stop and a “wobbly” right turn are criminal.
Catholic exorcism ceremony is in the Rituale Romanum.
Criminals don’t respect unjust laws.
Robo Cop trained to stop a car with a bullet.
Show and tell is a shotgun.

Evil has come to the United States.
Wolves sit pretty on the Wall
Manifesting destiny of might makes right
Evil is fought with deadly force.
Lessons in the cathedral of security
Everyone is evil
Defend yourself
Shoot first.
Evil has come to New Mexico
A weapon fired 16 times
16 notches on an official gun belt
Exorcist on the Rio Grande is efficient but evil
Fourteen bullets strike the car
One bullet enters the young woman’s back
Tearing muscle and bone and nerve
One bullet designated minor exorcist
Expels evil through a hole in the woman’s head.
For a traffic violation .
The Crown’s exorcist is possessed.