Inequities–Poem by Mary Strong Jackson


In the bathroom two mice begin pulling
pieces from toilet paper rolls under the sink
gathering bits for a cushy nest.

You tuck and smooth sun-dried
still warm cotton sheets across your bed.
Mice push tissue with noses and paws.

The next morning more roughed
up rolls and tiny dark poop tells on them.
If not for the lure of peanut butter,

they might live to settle into bed
just a pair of mates making
plans for tomorrows.

Same morning after the couple
Is sentenced to death by loaded
trap, a charm of hummingbirds sip
sugar-water outside the window

where red amaranth known
as Love-Lies-Bleeding
and orchids named Lady’s
Tresses spark your senses.

Mary Strong Jackson

Cootie Catcher by GennaRose Nethercott

Regardless of its title, chances are you’ve used the cootie catcher just the way I did: as a two-person game designed to tell brief, randomized fortunes. Like most folk traditions, evolving and adapting under the influence of many thinkers and makers throughout time, the catcher’s true origins are unclear, with some accounts tracking them all the way back to 17th-century Europe. We do know that the device was popularized in the United States during the 1950s. From there, it bloomed into one of the nation’s most popular children’s folk traditions, right up there with Bloody Mary in the mirror and “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” Traveling onwards between friendship-braceleted hands, stuffed into pockets, and torn from diary pages, the cootie catcher spread across the world.

Editor’s note–I really enjoyed this! Hope you do too. It’s worth reading all of it.

Staying In The Present Isn’t All That It Is Cracked Up To Be by Miriam Sagan

When I was 21, I almost died from swine flu and the attendant collapse of my lungs. When I finally got out of the hospital, I went and got myself a Transcendental Mediation mantra at the local center.
“Who’s the guy?” my sister used to ask when I’d do something out of character–fast for three days or ride on a motorcycle. The guy was my then boyfriend who didn’t last much longer. However, almost 45 years later I still meditate on that mantra at least once a day.
I was a student (a bad annoyed student, but one nonetheless) at San Francisco Zen Center in the 1980’s. I lived off and on in Zen monasteries in the years I was married to a Soto lineage monk. (Cherchez le Guy again). I’ve eaten psychadelic mushrooms, given birth, literally seen red with rage, and experienced many ecstatic states in the presence of art and nature. (Again, thank you guys for taking or getting me there). So I can say, with some authority, I’m acquainted with my own mind.
Which is why mindfulness, attention, and “being in the present” aren’t of huge interest to me. I’m not against it, but taken as a technique it just seems like a commodification of the spiritual path. It is supposed to get you somewhere specific–calm, grounded, focused. These seem like states that capitalism can use and exploit, unlike other altered states–stoned, cosmic, at one with God, singing and dancing, and more.
Also, we don’t “have” or own the present any more than the past or future. The idea that the present “exists” more firmly than past and future doesn’t sound like Buddhism–or physics. A lot of things are happening at once–in a cascading reality. Ant bait in my hand I’m in the present–hating ants, fascinated by them, a housewife protecting her food stores, a guilty environmentalist, a poet comparing ants to…hey, my swarming thoughts. It’s not exactly comfy. And I don’t find it morally–or spiritually–superior to being somewhere else.
I’m not big on following teachers, but my most fruitful relationship was with a Rinzai roshi who encouraged us to let koans continue in our sleep. Sleep certainly isn’t about being “present”–in fact it’s often about being gone. But it is about boundary lines. And that is where I’m happiest.

Glorious (alphabet) Garden by Margaret Wood

Glorious (alphabet) Garden by Margaret Wood

Acequia del Llano, filling ditches, cisterns, to water
Apple trees, tart/sweet New Mexico Delicious,
Arugula, spicy Dragon’s Tongue and Rocket,
Apricots luscious, overwhelmingly abundant,
Beans, scarlet ruby, running up their strings,
Carrots, with their ferny tops,
Cherries, sweet or sour, for the birds and for us,
Daisies’ upturned faces sprinkled through the grass,
Delphinium, my favorite, stalks of blue and purple,
Evening primrose, echinacia,
Flax, sky blue, tiny, intense,
Grapes, growing larger on immense trailing vines,
Green chile—Big Jim, Chimayo, Sandia Hot,
Honeysuckle climbing over coyote fence poles,
Indian Paintbrush, flames along the dirt road,
Jonquils, cheerful yellow, prolific in May,
Kale, gone to seed, as tall as my nose,
Lettuce—red sail, oak leaf, frisee,
Lovage, lavender, basil and dill,
Mint—yerba buena—fresh scent as I step,
Nepeta, or catmint, with brilliant purple flowers,
Orchids, phaleonopsis, on the bathtub ledge,
Plums, dark blue-purple, sour skin but sweet inside,
Queen Anne’s Lace– small, delicate and white,
Raspberries, red and golden, when I prune them right,
Snow peas, snap peas, sunflowers,
Tomatoes nearly ripe: zebra striped, indigo drops, black krim, bella rosa,
Undulating garter snake, gliding, surprising,
Veronica, blue-violet with pointed tips,
Wild pink rose, fragrant, spreading,
Xeriscape plants, natives that thrive,
Yarrow—feather leaves with yellow bursts,
Zinnias for last, magenta, from last year’s seeds.

Book Signing & Reading of the Memoir “Bluebeard’s Castle” by Miriam Sagan

Sunday August 11
Op Cit Bookstore in the DeVargas Mall, Santa Fe
From Red Mountain Press

Why did my grandfather meet with the Jewish gangster Lepky?
Why did my father consider me recklessly beyond the Pale?
Can you ever truly know another person?
What is behind the locked door in Bluebeard’s Castle?

Come find about, and say hello!

Poem by Osip Mandelstam

A friend just sent me this poem in the comments section under Dictators and I felt it deserved its own blog. Mandelstam was a Jewish Russian poet, one of the three Acmeists, along with Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Their lives were destroyed by Stalin. Tsvetaneva killed herself and Mandelstam died in a transit camp on the way to a Siberian gulag. His widow, Nadezhda, wrote two incredible memoirs, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned. The titles play on her name, which means Hope in Russian. She managed to preserve his poems by hiding them in a pot on the stove. The secret police ransacked the apartment but failed to discover them. She felt that was because they were men–it was an obvious hiding place to a woman. With Ahkmatova she survived the purges, in part because the two were–for unclear reasons–evacuated to central Asia during WW2.

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

Osip Mandelstam
(trans. merwin/brown)

It’s no coincidence that this is the most read post in the last 2 1/2 years…The Dictators

The Dictators by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Scott Nicolay
Originally posted on February 10, 2017 by Miriam Sagan
My ongoing gratitude to Scott Nicolay for this beautiful translation.

Los dictadores

Ha quedado un olor entre los cañaverales;
una mezcla de sangre y cuerpo, un penetrante
pétalo nauseabundo.
Entre los cocoteros las tumbas están llenas
de huesos demolidos, de estertores callados.
El delicado sátrapa conversa
con copas, cuellos y cordones de oro.
El pequeño palacio brilla como un reloj
y las rápidas risas enguantadas
atraviesan a veces los pasillos
y se reúnen a las voces muertas
y a las bocas azules frescamente enterradas.
El llanto está escondido como una planta
cuya semilla cae sin cesar sobre el suelo
y hace crecer sin luz sus grandes hojas ciegas.
El odio se ha formado escama a escama,
golpe a golpe, en el agua terrible del pantano,
con un hocico lleno de légamo y silencio.

The dictators

A smell lingered over the canefields;

a penetrating blend of blood and bodies,

of sickening flower petals.

The tombs between the coco palms are stuffed

with ruined bones, with stifled death-rattles.

The fastidious satrap holds converse

with golden goblets, collars, and braid.

The little palace gleams like a pocketwatch

and the rapid, gloved laughter

traverses the corridors from time to time

encountering the dead voices

and the blue mouths, freshly buried.

The lament is concealed like a plant

whose seed falls ceaselessly over the soil

and whose great blind leaves grow without light.

The hatred has grown from height to height,

Blow by blow, in the horrible water of the swamp,

With a snout full of silence and of silt.