It’s Very Strange To Stop In Chama, New Mexico

And not drive into Colorado–but we are being law abiding!

Luckily haiku doesn’t care about borders.

large guy swatting
flies—I’ll avoid
this cafe table

a small rainbow—
check tire pressure
light stays on

curled dead mouse—
quiet conversation
crossing high grasslands

I can’t stop laughing
for no reason—we’ve been
married a long time

In Navajo Country

The question I’m asked most frequently is how a black doctor in his 50s working on the Navajo reservation started doing street art on said reservation. In retrospect, it was only natural for this evolution to occur.
I started working in a small community between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley called Inscription House in 1987. I’d always been drawn to photography and built a darkroom shortly after my arrival on the Navajo Nation. My passion photographically is shooting black and white in a documentary style inspired by people like Eugene Smith, Eugene Richards, Joseph Koudelka and others. By going out and spending time with people in their homes and family camps, I have come to know them as friends. Interestingly, these home visits enhance my doctor/patient relationship by helping me be a more empathetic health care practitioner.
I’ve always been drawn to street art, graffiti and old school hip-hop. I was attracted to the energy of the culture in the 80s and though I was miles away from the epicenter, I thought of myself as a charter member of the Zulu Nation. I would travel to New York City to see graffiti on trains, on buildings and in galleries. I did some tagging in the 80s before coming to the Navajo Nation and participated with a major billboard “correction” on the reservation shortly after my arrival.

https://jetsonorama.net/welcome/

Lucky

Bhadra—Lucky

You always considered
yourself lucky
because things seemed
to work out
the way you wanted.

Now luck has a different meaning.

Lucky to be walking a Path
that finds peace
in the arising
and passing
away
of
each
present
moment.

Regardless
of how things
work out
or don’t.

From “The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns”
Translated by Matty Weingast
Shambhala, 2020

This collection is a true source of inspiration!

Lebensborn by Miriam Sagan

Another section of the memoir I’m calling “Stash.” It is essentially flash–each piece is modular, and small enough to fit into a plastic stash box. And volatile enough to make me worry if perhaps I shouldn’t just hide it.

Lebensborn

My brother is born in the summer. Winter vacation, my dad takes me and my sister to California to visit his best friend’s family. My mom stays home with the two littles. It’s a lovely time—no snow, the smell of eucalyptus. My first time in Chinatown. A restaurant down a flight of steps—recommended as the best! A giant fried butterfly shrimp. I buy some tiny cranes with wires for legs—you put them in a pot of moss and create a miniature garden. Muir woods, where the redwood burls bring forth green shoots and you can ship them home.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I’m in the passenger’s seat. My dad is absent-mindedly listening to the radio. They are talking about something…weird. A Nazi breeding program. I’m ten years old. I know about sex. My ears are riveted. You have to have sex? They take you away and make you have sex with a stranger and have babies? Blond Nazi babies? Super race doesn’t mean a lot to me, and I don’t understand the word “lebensborn.” But I understand. Suddenly my father reaches over and changes the station to classical music.

Still, I feel soiled. I can’t ask my dad, because it is about sex. He is good on Nazis, but for the combo I need my mother. Flying home, our plane gets grounded in a storm in the middle of the country. We are put on a bus, and drive all night through raging snow.

We stop at a diner and my father encourages me to order a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy. “You’ll like it,” he says. I do. For many years it will be my favorite thing to order.

There is a handsome young British guy with a guitar on the bus. He is nice to me and my sister. Years later my dad says, “Remember that guy with the guitar on the bus? Traveling all over. Turns out there were a lot more to come—hippies.” Towards the end of the trip the driver is disoriented and my dad directs him through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. My dad has the map in his head.

“You had a good time?” my mother asks. I had a really good time. But…

“Mom,” I say. “Did the Nazis make people have sex so they could have perfect Nazi babies?”

“Yes,” she says. That is all, but it is enough.

Poem by Aigerim Tazhi

Walking like a camel
a traveler throws up dust, draws near.
Eyes of different colors,
hand carved from wood.
A dead viper at his breast,
a rope with fangs.
A horse felled in the road.
Fragile as a twig,
a skeleton. Waves of a sandy pelt.
Your name? say the word out loud.
A furrowed face. The angle of the sun shifts.
Paper-thin skin translucent,
letters shine through the forehead.

Translated from the Russian by J. Katz

From the book “Paper-Thin Skin,” Zephyr Press, 2019