Today’s Haiku (February 26, 2021)

Feels right for today! From Blue Willow Haiku World (by Fay Aoyagi)

Blue Willow Haiku World (by Fay Aoyagi)

春愁のふたつづつある肘と膝  下坂速穂

shunshû no futatsu zutsu aru hiji to hiza

spring melancholy

everyone with a pair

of elbows and knees

Hayaho Shimosaka

from “Haiku Shiki” (“Haiku Four Seasons,” a monthly haiku magazine), May 2017 Issue, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, Tokyo

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IN THE OAK GROVE: Poem by Dale Harris


In the Oak Grove come February
The Queen of Winter struggles with Brighde
for the right of Spring to emerge.

Tend your fire
O Cailleach, Dark Mother.
Barren now, I am unable to give much.
Where you lead, the green landscape fades.
We meet at the edge of things
gather the dry tinder of love remembered.

Here are the unwritten deeds
of my grievous neglect.
Kindnesses kept and never shared
regrets large and small.
Will these reluctant gifts burn?
or only smoke and smolder.

Nonetheless, the work is sealed
the offering made
whether accepted or not.

Never to be taken for granted
Spring returns
Brighde prevails.

War Rugs

I was fortunate to see this show at the Museum of International Folk Art a few days ago. I’ve always been fascinated by war rugs–in fact, I bought the first one I ever saw–a small one now in my study.
I think of them as textiles of survival, like the embroidered pieces of the Hmong people, pictorial quilts from Holocaust survivors, and Chilean arpilleras created under fascism.

From Combat to Carpet: The Art of Afghan War Rugs(from the MOIFA website)

January 12, 2020 – September 5, 2021

The Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) presents From Combat to Carpet: The Art of Afghan War Rugs, opening January 12, 2020 and running until August 30, 2020. From Combat to Carpet is a traveling exhibition curated by Enrico Mascelloni and Annemarie Sawkins and features more than 40 handwoven rugs with war-related iconography collected over the past forty years.

War rugs “are the production of women artists, and of communities speaking globally not just locally,” said co-curator Annemarie Sawkins. “War rugs reflect Afghanistan’s historic and modern place as a busy cultural crossroads. They reveal the observant and innovative nature of the people who produced them.” Afghan “war rugs” gained international attention following the Soviet invasion of 1979 when millions of refugees fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

This unique subset of handwoven rugs can teach us about the innovative nature of rug design and production, as well as the long history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan. Rug producers, provoked by decades of traders and invaders in the country, adapted traditional motifs and compositions, translating them into depictions of world maps, tourist sites, weapons, and military figures. Such war rugs have proven popular among occupying military personnel, journalists, foreign aid workers, international collectors, and contemporary art curators. Over the years, rug makers have continued to update popular imagery and themes to reflect current events, changing technologies, and the tastes of potential buyers.

The emergence of war-related imagery in Afghan rug design has clearly aided the economic survival of area weavers and displaced craftspeople through years of armed conflict and cultural disruption. What war rugs mean to individual weavers is less understood. Are war rugs a celebration of modernity or a rejection of war? Are they a witness to shared trauma or a commercialization of violence? Are they testaments to ingenuity and a spirit of survival? Perhaps they are all of these things at once.

Long Haul by Miriam Sagan

As my friends and readers know, in 1976 I was stricken with flu, possible swine flu, possibly a seasonal variant. My 21-year-old immune system kicked into high gear, and attacked…me. After dramatic surgery, I spent many weeks in the ICU, and months in the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. I lost my right lung, mobility in my arm, leg, and torso, and the sense of ownership of my body. I would never feel “young” or pain-free again. I was detoxed off of morphine, discharged, and left to reconstruct myself. My world did not include any concept of healing.

I wasn’t dead–and I was on my own.

That is the basic version, but it is also a tale full of questions and obscurity. Forty-five years later, I’m still parsing it out. In my sixties, I basically thought of myself as disabled but grateful for my mobility–hard-won with endless PT, exercise, and a trusty cane. I thought of myself as happy–thrilled–to have lived long enough to consider myself an old lady and to experience having a grandchild. I thought of myself as someone with chronic pain and fatigue–sort of like arthritis or fibromyalgia. And I thought of myself as unique–and sometimes in a fit of self-pity, utterly alone.

When a slightly older friend heart-breakingly died of post-polio syndrome, I saw something of myself in her. What did a viral load really mean? I’ve had PT’s tell me I had neurological damage, but leave it without details. I’ve had PT’s tell me that my jumping muscles, spasms, neuralgia, tingling, numbness, and more, are…well, somehow connected.

But again, I’m not in any cohort. What happened was rare enough that it might be close to unique.

Enter covid. I don’t like to say anything positive about the pandemic, but it has given me a rush of insight. Reading about covid long-haulers, I certainly see the similarities. I have empathy, of course. But I’m also surprised by the narrowness of our model of disease–you get sick. And then you recover. This might be true of strep throat treated with antibiotics. but it certainly isn’t true of most disease–not chronic conditions, not many cancers or heart attacks or strokes, and not numerous viruses.

Long haul response is somehow seen as a failure–of treatment, of the patient. And yet anyone who has been seriously ill usually has some lifelong after-effects, and not just physical ones. This leads me to the question–do I wish this had not happened to me? The answer is NO.

I’m not glad I almost died and walk with a cane, but I am very glad that I learned about the reality of death at a young age. To not waste time. To not live inauthentically. To not take my body for granted. To not believe in some false idea of health and youth. To know where my organs are located. To understand how to breathe. To have joie de vivre and a bit of hedonism. To not be shocked by mortality.

I can credit almost every important decision I’ve made–to persist as a writer, to move to New Mexico, to recover from widowhood, to wear loud, bold colors, to swear whenever I want to–to my having been sick.

I wish I could say that covid has made me feel more connected to others, but it hasn’t. Forty-five years of my own philosophies and character have forged me into someone who by necessity must think for herself. And that can be a sloppy, confused, and lonesome process. But what would I be without it?

Thank you, still unknown virus, that made me who I am.

Atomic Paradise and a Reading by Jules Nyquist and Larry Goodell

Two great New Mexico poets will be reading:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

07:00 PM  

KAKTUS features Larry Goodell & Jules Nyquist plus open mic
February 23rd KAKTUS features: Larry Goodell & Jules Nyquist
Hosted by John Roche
 via Zoom. 7 pm Mountain Time
Features followed by open mic
Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.  You will also be asked if you want to read at the open mic. If you say YES you’ll be on the list!

Jules Nyquist will be reading from her new book, Atomic Paradise.

Atomic Paradise explores the nuclear history and the dawn of the atomic age. This collection of poems focus on the author’s experiences living in New Mexico, a land of incredible beauty, that is in the heart of the nuclear military/industrial complex. Atomic Paradise takes us from the author’s experience growing up in the Cold War, to reflections on the Manhattan Project, and poet/physicist Dr. Robert Oppenheimer. These poems also explore Hiroshima and the dropping of the bomb, the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world and nuclear tourism, and the fallout of the nuclear industry in New Mexico. The Japanese internment camps in Santa Fe and the Trinity Site are included along with nuclear waste and the environment in the Southwest. Throughout are the author’s personal observations to make this huge topic of the nuclear war and the resulting nuclear industry a bit more human, and very relevant.

I’ve long cared deeply about this material:

“For those of us raised in the shadow of nuclear annihilation – and that is everyone born after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima – this reality is a terrifying and inescapable one. Jules Nyquist investigates this terrain with imagination and compassion. Of the Titan Missiles, she sees how “normalcy” has replaced the Cold War: “Tourists line up for tickets/ at the museum silo on the highway/ that runs down to Mexico.”  Robert Oppenheimer is here, in his atomic Promethean role, as is Trinity Site. So much of this history happened in New Mexico that it benefits from the insights of a New Mexican writer. Important material, beautifully expressed.”
— Miriam Sagan, Santa Fe, NM

Covid Altar by Arthur Lopez

I was lucky to see this today at the Museum of International Folk Art. He is one of my favorite contemporary santeros.

The kitchen sink is the altar, complete with cleansing soap. Covid viruses dance outside the window, but the house is safe, protected by traditional saints and a brand new one against the pandemic.

I Know That Spring Is Coming: Poem by Miriam Sagan

I know that spring is coming,
desire in our always broken hearts,
chipped and mended so many times
like Japanese teacups
no longer the original color
but gold in the cracks
until the breaks predominate
and the whole cup is precious metal.

Stepping out from the black and white movie
to find the world in color
more vivid than before
or turning the pages of the book
a sudden flush of vastness.
These moments cannot
be possessed, traded for love
or a black slouch hat
but fall through the soft air
as if slipping from bare branches.
like meteors, wishes, or blossoms.

Interview with Jamie Figueroa About Her New Novel “Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer”

Miriam’s Well: This is your first novel! Congratulations! That is a big accomplishment. I want to ask you a few questions about your process:

JF: Thank you so much for your interest and support!

MW: What was the germ of inspiration that started your thinking about the book? Inspiration in totality might be too large a question. But did you start with any kind of “what if” or problem to be solved, or a sense of a world you wanted to enter?

JF: The book started as an imagined memory. A dream of sorts that floated into my awareness. The first scene was a whole, active presentation that caught and kept my attention. The language went along with it—vivid, poetic, electric at times. Who are these people and what is going on? Were the questions I kept asking as they led me through and into their lives. It was helpful that my MFA mentor in my last semester (2015) strongly recommended we have the beginning of our next work started when we graduated. As I wrote initial pages, I wasn’t sure if it was a short story or novella. Turns out it wanted to be even longer.

MW: The setting seems both mythical and real—or a mythic version of a real place—like the county Thomas Hardy made up for his novels that had real things like Stonehenge in them. Am I reading this correctly? How did you create this?

JF: Ciudad de Tres Hermanas is a fictional twin of Santa Fe. A place where I could also include some influence of San Juan (Puerto Rico). Both are layered, complex places full of colonial (living) history where the locals can be displaced by the tourists, on whom they also depend. The narrator is also the voice of this place, a plural voice, of the rocks and roots. Irreverent at times as well as nurturing at times. They—this voice—directly addresses the reader.

MW: It is beautifully written—a pleasure to read. Was that breaking stones in the hot sun or was the process more smooth and lyrical?

JF: Both! I found myself carried along quite a bit. When it became difficult, I knew I’d stopped listening and needed to center myself and become as receptive as possible, again. When I felt with my intuition and instincts, listened with my inner ear, watched with my inner eye, the images came and the sentences came as well. AND, there was a lot of revising with each draft and attending to every word.

MW: Much of the emotional action seems to take place “in relationship”—in the spaces between people. Is there a part YOU are located in the novel?

JF: It IS very much a relational novel… The characters, of course, are in relationship with each other. They are in relationship with the place, AND, the place is also in relationship with them as the house is in relationship with them. It is a novel that makes space for all perspectives, human and nonhuman. In this way it continues to undo privileged perspectives and foreground what has been overlooked.

MW: Anything you’d like to add?

JF: Great questions, Miriam. Thank you! Excited to read at Collected Works on Tuesday, March 2nd at 6 pm. ( )

MW: I am looking forward to the event! Readers, please join Jamie Figueroa.