Miriam’s Well On Vacation

I’ll be taking a break until new year–so expect the blog back in early January. In 2020–God willing and the creek don’t rise–I expect to have almost two weeks in Truth or Consequences, NM, soaking and writing. The spring semester takes me, as part of Maternal Mitochondria, to study with sculptor Patricia Pearce, who I revere! Working on poems about astronomy for a special volume. And with Center for Contemporary Arts–poetry at the movies in February.

Always answering email: msagan1035@aol.com

ALWAYS publishing your work:

Haiku. Send one and I’ll discuss
Re-prints. Send a poem and I’ll link, credit, etc.
Interviews: Published poets (book, not self-pub) drop me a note to do the 3 Questions mini-interview
Projects: Art, odd and weird roadside things, collaboration, events
Reviews: Query first
Musings: Anything on your mind

Far away in space, but close by the imagination…photos by Gail Rieke.

Chikuho Mimura-san
Kunisaki Bamboo Artist

Locked Gate by Susan Gardner

Locked Gate

On December 19, 1980
Alaíde Foppa went to buy flowers.
She disappeared.

Sixty six years old.
In a cellar, in a bloody cell, in Guatemala,
by the hands of thugs.
Or worse.

I walk by Alaíde’s sweet house in Tepoztlán
refuge from city noise and endless sorrow
Mario, husband of decades, killed
in Guatemala by a car
two sons, Mario and Juan Pablo,
Guatemalan guerillas, dead
Silvia, belovéd hija, hiding in Cuba
Laura and Julio, safe
in an unquiet life in Mexico.

Alaíde’s house is closed.
White cotton curtains cross the fastened windows,
embroidered flowers near the sills.

Past the locked iron gate, leaves blow in corners
of the patio, brown on the stones,

Now and then, someone, thinking of Alaíde, tosses
a message through the patterned bars,
also undisturbed,

Thirty years ago I write a poem, lift it to the wind,
through the barred gate.
Dust now.

Alaíde loved the light of Italian art
and the music of Italian words.

Teacher, translator, scholar,

for almost half a century, she put words on paper
justice equality honor
despair hope

No body. No grave. Not a strand of hair.

Only paper reminds us
of her beauty, her courage

but a century after she was born, her words,
written down,
are read.

Remembered, like Joe Hill, she’s alive as you or me.

Inner Madrina by Ana Consuelo Matiella


Las Madrinas and Your Inner Madrina

Respectful, Role Model, Mentor, Loving Friend, Confidante, Amorosa, Responsible, Sabia, Second Mother, Supportive, Atenta, Loves-You-No-Matter- What, Good Listener, Patient, Cariñosa, Loving.

These are some of the words that the women in our groups in Albuquerque came up with when I said, “Tell me what you think of when I say, Madrina.”

Most Latinas Get a Madrina Shortly after Birth

Your first Madrina was likely the woman that stood next to your mom at your baptism. She vowed that if something happened to your mother, she would take care of you. Your madrina can also be the woman that sponsored your confirmation, first communion, quinceañera, and/or was your Maid of Honor at your wedding.  
The concept of Madrina (and Padrino) comes from our Spanish Catholic roots and it goes way back to the early middle ages. However, even those of us who don’t practice Catholicism anymore, keep our Madrinas and Comadres. That’s because they make our lives richer and offer us love, wisdom, guidance and much needed support.
Do you have a Madrina? I hope you do! I have an 85 year old Madrina thriving in New York City, but I had several Madrinas growing up. I wrote a whole book about it.  It’s called, what else but, Las Madrinas: Life Among My Mothers (Tres Chicas Press).  

So, I hope you are lucky enough to have a Madrina in your life, but if you don’t, how do you get one? I want to have a conversation about this because it is a tradition that we as Latinas need to keep alive. How do we do that? How do we keep this relationship alive for our daughters and granddaughters?  

Your Inner Madrina
Another idea that I want to explore with you is the concept of the Inner Madrina. We hear and read a lot about Inner Wisdom these days. Trusting yourself. Intuition. Higher Power. There are many words to describe this act of reaching inside yourself for wisdom. But what about fostering a relationship with your Inner Madrina?  
Natalie Goldberg, a well-known writer and writing guide from Taos, New Mexico, writes about the “Sweetheart,” that can help you write. As writers, we have very active and sometimes mean inner critics that tell us that our writing sucks. And Goldberg has conjured up an inner sweetheart that will counter the inner critic. When the inner critic tells the writer that she’s dumb and a bad writer, the sweetheart says, “Keep going, you’re doing fine.” That inner sweetheart, from my point of view, is an Inner Madrina.  
Robin Scritchfield, author of Body Kindness talks about having an “Inner Caregiver” that you could develop inside yourself to give you guidance and to show yourself kindness. My aha moment as I was reading her wonderful book came when I realized that she too was talking about an Inner Madrina.  
Call her your Fairy Godmother, Your Guide, Your Sweetheart, Inner Caregiver or Blessed Mother, but you too can have an Inner Madrina!

At De Las Mías, we affirm our culture and our power as Latinas. We uphold these relationships that still thrive in our familias and comunidades. We hold up our community of hermanas, comadres and madrinas to help us live healthier, more supported lives. We have several experts on our team to serve you and we refer to them respectfully as Madrinas. Madrina Malena is our expert nutritionist; Madrina Lori is the test kitchen chef, Madrina Yoli has given us great guidance on how to be more physically active.
But what about an Inner Madrina? And wouldn’t it be fabulous to conjure one up for yourself?
So, in this new year, we want to invite you to explore the concept of the Inner Madrina with us. Look back to the words that our comadres in Albuquerque used to describe Madrina and ponder a while on those qualities: Wise, Respectful, Role Model, Mentor, Loving Friend, Confidante, that Sabia, Second Mother, Amorosa, Supportive, Atenta, Loves You No Matter What, Good Listener, Patient, Cariñosa.

If you had an Inner Madrina, what would she be like? What quality would she represent?
Here are some questions to get you started, but don’t stop there:
What’s your Inner Madrina’s name?  
How would she help you counter the negative messages you give yourself? 
What words would she use to comfort you?
How would she guide you take better care of yourself?
How would she greet you in the morning?
What kind words might she say to you right before you go to sleep?
Send me your Inner Madrina Story! It doesn’t have to be long or fancy; just a personal telling of your experience. Use the prompts I provided or make up your own. The first 10 Cuenteras who send me your Inner Madrina Story will get a complimentary copy of my memoir, Las Madrinas: Life Among My Mothers.
Email Ana at ana@delasmias.com
For more information on De Las Mías, go to www.delasmias.com or follow us on Instagram @delasmiaslife

Things I Am Not Doing by Miriam Sagan

1. Grading
2. Following the impeachment
3. Trying to improve myself
4. Sending holiday cards
5. Keeping the basil plant alive
6. Believing the human race is improving

Things I am doing
1. Reading War and Peace
2. Allowing myself to miss my parents
3. Not mentioning art history to my baby grand-daughter when she says Dada
4. Waiting for you to serve the lentil soup
5. Cracking myself up
6. Dreaming

Three Knit A Shawl by Ursula Moeller

The author says:

I enjoy knitting. I learned to knit as a child from my Austrian mother and grandmother. They knit the way they were taught in the “old” country, in the Continental style. That was the style they taught me. At some time I was shown the “American” style, so my knitting developed into my own hybrid version.

I am a storyteller, and the germ of this tale came from one of my improv stories told in a storytelling group. I found myself smiling as I turned it into a complete story. I often include grandmothers and children in my stories and sometimes use a fairytale-like feeling.



Grandmother Lisbeth sat as close as she could to the fire, slowly rocking in her great-grandmother’s old rocker. It was hard to tell if the creaking was from Lisbeth’s ancient bones or the century-old rocker. Her sheepskin-slippered feet would gently push off the wooden floor, back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes a little smoke would escape the fireplace and fill the room with the scent of burning pine.
She sat to catch the fire’s warmth and often closed her eyes and dozed, remembering, remembering . . . Other times she picked up her favorite worn knitting needles and began slowly and carefully, knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one. She had been knitting for so many years she didn’t need to count stitches or wonder when to increase or decrease.
Her favorite knitting times were when her two young grandchildren pulled up their miniature rocking chairs, as near to her as possible, the three of them forming a loving triangle before the fire’s heat. As soon as the boy, Ethan, and the girl, Rebecca, were settled, one would cry, ”Granmamma, granmamma, tell us a story, oh please do!”
“Yes, oh please, please,” the other would echo. “Tell the one about the fox and the wolf with the great big teeth. Ooh, that one is so scary!”
And she would start telling the story all the while slowly knitting, knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one. As soon as she was at the end, the children would clap their hands and jump out of their chairs to hug her. “Thanks Granmamma. It wasn’t too scary this time. Tell us another.”
If there was time before dinner, Lisbeth would rock a few times, continue her knitting and tell another.
One time she started by saying, ”Today I will tell one called the Story of Threes. It is about three diving ducks, three glittering stars high up in the sky and three sturdy oak trees that grew on the banks of the pond where the ducks swam. It is about three different things. Can you show me how many three is?”
Rebecca held up two fingers.
“No, no that’s only two, you need one more to make three,” Ethan said, and held up three straight fingers to show her. The girl copied him and pleased with herself, announced “Three, that’s how old I am now. This many.” And she held up three.
“Yes, that’s right,” said Lisbeth and started to rock and knit and tell the Story of Threes. The flames flickered over the children’s faces as they echoed her slow rocking and became lost in the tale.
Now Lisbeth had an old neighbor friend who’s name was also Lisbeth. They all called her Lis to keep from mixing up who was who. What Lisbeth was knitting during those cold weeks leading up to Christmas, was a big afghan shawl for Lis who had arthritis and couldn’t knit any longer herself. It would be made of alternating gold and blue squares and be large enough to wrap around Lis’ entire body and overlap in the front.
“This will be a magic shawl,” she told the children, “because as I tell you these stories while I’m knitting, and because of your careful listening, the stories will become part of the shawl. When Lis bundles herself up in it, she will hear the stories, and they will warm her heart just as the wool will warm her bones. So all three of us will be giving her a special gift this year. And all three of us will wrap it up and bring it to her together, the day before Christmas.”
“Oh yes, that will be wonderful for Lis because we know she likes stories as much as we do. We’re happy to be giving her a magic shawl,” Ethan said.
And so the peaceful triangle and the knitting and weaving of stories continued during the dark cold nights. One night Rebecca noticed that her grandmother was knitting slower than usual. “Are your fingers getting tired of knitting, Granmamma?” she asked.
Rebecca couldn’t imagine her grandmother not being able to knit.
“No dear, but the wool is almost gone and I’m not wanting our story times to be over.”
 “But Granmamma, the shawl must be finished before Christmas so we can bring it over to Lis. And can’t we have stories afterwards anyway?”
“Of course we can and we will,” so Lisbeth resumed her previous knitting speed, and finally there was only one ball of wool of each color left. “Tonight is the night we will finish and I will bind off the shawl. Let’s retell the wolf and the fox story I told you the first night we started this project.”
When the shawl was finished, Lisbeth said, ”All right my dears, help me out of this chair please.”
Rebecca took hold of one gnarled hand and Ethan the other, and they gently pulled her up to standing. The children helped their grandmother flatten out the shawl and carefully fold it over and over into a soft somewhat lumpy bundle. They wrapped it in brown paper and tied it with the last pieces of left-over yarn. Ethan, who had just learned how to tie a bow, proudly made a big floppy one, and the gift was ready to be delivered.
That evening they bundled up in hats, scarves and mittens and took turns carrying the gift down the long dirt path to reach the house next door. The full moon overhead spread long shadows behind them. Three sets of different sized footprints marked their way through the snow. The children knocked excitedly, but It took a while for Lis’s arthritic legs to make it to the front door. When she opened it, she saw both neighbor children jumping up and down in excitement.
“Come in, come in. I’m so happy to see you all!”
“Lis, Lis, we have a surprise for you!” they shouted. “It’s for Christmas, but maybe you should open it right away. Now!”
Lis did, slowly, as Lisbeth put her arm around Lis’ shoulders, and tears formed in both their eyes.
“It is a magic shawl from all three of us. I did the rocking and the knitting and the storytelling, and the children did their rocking and listening. We all wrapped it together. You will be warm on these cold nights, and the stories and our love will keep you company and keep you strong when you are lonely,” Lisbeth told her friend.
Lis slowly wrapped the shawl around herself. Her eyes were shining and she had the biggest smile they’d ever seen. “Oh, you look perfect!” Rebecca cried.
“Merry, merry Christmas,” the three chanted in unison. They piled on their warm clothing again and returned home wreathed in smiles.
The next night, when they all sat down for a new story in their rocking chairs, they had a great surprise. The basket which held all the gold and blue wool for Lis’ shawl, that had been totally emptied, was now filled to the brim with balls of wool, red and green this time.

knitting wool, red and green yarn needle

Poetry Posts by Jane Lin

The poetry posts at SFCC campus now showcase poems by Jane Lin and artwork by Julian Wong.
A lovely combination!
Curated by Elizabeth Jacobson

Here is the opening of one poem:

Deer Trap

When you say teleological
I think geological, the layers laid down
in ashy additions. Think paleological,
the ur-cat loved for being first.
Fish heads and shrimp tails.
The land rises up. The stone wears down, footholds one in front of another
in the hip’s required zag.

Hartman Rock Garden, Springfield, Ohio

Built during the Depression by an unemployed–and later terminally ill–outsider artist. These kinds of roadside grottoes–so personal and yet also religious and patriotic–seem to draw from a wellspring of imagery. Why Noah’s ark? Why stone? Why the obsession? I’ll always care, and go out of my way to see these pieces.

Mary Talks about Breasts: Poem by Devon Miller-Duggan

Mary Talks about Breasts

All the painters gave me virgin’s tits—

pomegranates shoved under skin

as though that one son’s milk 
had no specific gravity—miracle milk pumped direct

from angels’ song—and suckling him took nothing from my body. 

As if we’d all trip over our own Ground of Being, by which I mean

breasts. As if it mattered what part of me was broken open

or unclothed by the great wind of spermless conception. 

Just look at paintings. I’m untouched in all

those announcements—barely a breeze from our angel’s descent 

or scary plural voice, 

and the spirit shooting light

towards my ear because the old men of the Councils

wrangled the conclusion that the baby had to get in some orifice

un-gross, unfilthy, and besides, 

the right one for The Word. But this is about breasts, 

and painters who believed a virgin’s round-fruit breasts

could hold enough milk to feed God

and never droop. 

As if begetting a god would leave a woman unwracked, 
But, look, I find my painted self

ginger, blonde, or barely brown for 1500 years,
on walls, one always out and shiny

as if I were an Amazon. 

2000 years and more my breasts, 

along with those of goddesses and nymphs 

and girls left out for gods to rape, and poor Agatha,
are all the boobs that don’t offend. 

Mothers suckle babes in toilet stalls 

and dressing rooms (where cameras watch), 

swim clubs with “topless” decks may not permit a nipple in a baby’s mouth.

You know, I know of women who give up their breasts to live

and do not choose to be cut again
and harvested (there’s fruit again)
or stretched to make new bumps. They are

often asked by men what will your husband have to play with now? 

Click for poem.

Time Peace

I recently heard someone make the interesting observation that she was writing out the arc of her life on a big sheet of paper. When I was in residence with the Center for Land Use Interpretation I did the same. In fact I blogged this many years ago when it was in process. Finished, it was published in my memoir GEOGRAPHIC from Casa de Snapdragon Press.
Looking at it today, I realize these are experiences that meant I would never feel the United States of America was a benign liberal place designed for my happiness and security.

Time Peace

April 27, 1954

I am born, by natural childbirth, in Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. My mother delivers me a little after 3 p.m., after the nurse’s shift changes. They are loath to go because they have never seen natural childbirth before.
I am born into a world marked forever by Auschwitz and Hiroshima. Strange how innocent place names can come to speak of universal horror. I am born in upper Manhattan. For my entire life, my dreams will have NY City street signs in them. I will always know the cardinal directions in my dreams.

Manhattan Project, 1942-1946

Robert Oppenheimer and other physicists develop the atom bomb in a remote location in New Mexico–Los Alamos. It is tested in southern New Mexico, in the Jornado del Muerto. As an adult, I visit the Trinity Test Site on one of the two days of the year it is open and buy myself a lavender T-shirt with a blue mushroom cloud on it.
I wear it out.

Cuban Missile Crisis. October, 1962

Our third grade teacher, Mrs. Harvey, is no-nonsense and British. We know she survived the London blitz. She pulls down a map of the world from the blackboard at the front of the class and shows us that Russia practically touches Alaska. They have always been right next door and able to bomb us. For some reason, this banishes my fear.

August 6, 1945

The atom bomb “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima by the U.S. On August 9, “Fat Man” is detonated over Nagasaki.

November 22, 1963

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. I am in the fourth grade and miss Mrs. Harvey with her great accent.
This may be the first time I realize my family is different than others. The next school day many kids say they saw their fathers cry. My father did not cry, but he did drink a beer in the daytime while watching television–very unusual behavior.
Years later I learned that Fidel Castro remarked–who is this man Johnson and can he handle the CIA?
My father seemed to be asking some sort of similar question.

Autumn, 1905, Russia

A general strike is called throughout the Tsarist Russia–a revolution, really. My grandfather Avrum, who is a short skinny teenager, is lifted up by other men so he can pull the whistle which signals the start of the local protest.

April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Assassination

The house next to us, which is abandoned, burns. It is a vast house with turrets and follies–we call it the pink castle. My parents are away, and my grandfather Avrum and I sit up all night together watching the firemen and keeping an eye so that the strand of copper beeches between us and the conflagration don’t catch fire.

November 7, 1867

Madame Sklodowska Curie, discoverer of radium, is born. I read her biography, along with those of Harriet Tub-man and Joan of Arc. I will never do what any of them do, but as a girl in the 1950s I take my heroines where I can find them.

November, 1984
I move to Santa Fe, New Mexico a few days after Ronald Reagan wins the election and am amazed to see the lights of Los Alamos twinkling in the northwest. It is as if I did not know it was a real place.

Tisha B’Av, 1492. Jews expelled from Spain

This date, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the least auspicious one on the Hebrew calendar.
The Jews are expelled from Spain, leaving my family with a taste for flamenco and me with the desire to just keep driving south into Mexico.

August 19-21, 1991. Fall of Soviet Union

The coup against Michael Gorbachev fails. During the two days of the attempt, my parents are huddled in the basement of their beach house because a hurricane is devastating the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Periodically my father braves the wind and threat of broken glass to run up the stairs to the kitchen where he can get good radio reception to find out what is happening in Russia.

9th of Av, 70 A.C.E.

The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is commemorated by the Romans on a triumphal arch, still
in Rome. The arch of Titus shows the plundered menorah carried off by soldiers. The start of the Jewish diaspora.

November, 2010. Wendover, Utah
Desert dawn, azure sky. Venus hangs over the guard tower. The lights of the casinos blink reflected in the windows of the Enola Gay hangar. I drink a cup of coffee by myself.