About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

Emma Nishimura

Fascinating and unusual work.

https://www.emmanishimura.com/

Thinking about the weight of memory and the stories that are passed down from one generation to the next (and the stories that are lost as well), this body of work explores the idea of what it might look like to package and archive memory. An extension of the Collected Stories series, this work is part of an ongoing installation project that focuses on the narratives surrounding the Japanese Canadian internment.

The series consists of hundreds of small bundled forms, known as furoshiki. This Japanese wrapping technique can be used to both store and protect. It may wrap a gift or be purely utilitarian. Working with photo-intaglio and sculptural papermaking processes, the bundles appear to contain an assortment of objects and have varying illusions of physical weight. However, all of the bundles are empty – mere shells that bear only the traces of what they once held. Many of the forms reveal elements of photographic imagery, small moments that link and connect with different stories and memories. All of the photographs have been archived from family albums, my own, as well as others. I will continue to make more bundles, as I complete further interviews and collect photographs from different storytellers.

Karen

I like an insult as much as anyone. My father was a fan of Shakespeare’s “retort sarcastic.” He told us we could say anything as long as it was witty. He also loved an old Jewish joke, the punchline of which was “Fuck you, Milty. Now THAT is repartee.” The joke was funny because “fuck you” of course is not a very sophisticated insult.
Nor, to my mind, is calling someone “Karen.” Which means a trivial busy body…often a racist one.
I don’t like it because I dislike ad hominem attack. If we’d told my dad, “you are a bossy asshole,” he wouldn’t have passed that as a retort sarcastic.
I’ve been appalled by the ad hominem attacks on Trump. Do people really hate each other for their appearance? Liberals too, although this seems perilously close to racial and ethnic hatred. Also, fat shaming. It seems that hatred of Trump tops any concern over if it is OK to use the word “fat” as an insult. And trust me, it is not. My father wouldn’t have allowed that either.
Also, to my ear using “Karen” as an insult harkens back to the time when Scandinavians were recent immigrants in the upper Midwest–mocked for their accents, their food, and their supposedly old-fashioned country ways. Maybe they were also feared for their radical–agrarian socialist–politics that at one time dominated the region. I wouldn’t call any kind of Jewish woman “a Sarah” because that certainly sounds anti-Semitic. Try it with any name that sounds ethnic and you’ll find a similar result.
Plus, I’ve had friends and family members named Karen. Having an individual stand for a whole is somewhere between a stereotype and a racist/sexist icon. At a time when we are trying to get rid of such, I don’t find the introduction of a new one particularly amusing.

Hiroshima Day

Start Anywhere by Miriam Sagan
From the book GEOGRAPHIC: Memoir of Time and Space

I didn’t want to be sentimental about the body–yours, mine, or the land’s.
When the Twin Towers came down I had been expecting it.
A bridge hung between two voids.

I had been waiting my whole life for someone to believe what I saw.
A bridge hung between two voids.

There was an autobiography between me and Hiroshima
You could not take it out of context because there was no context.

It was as if it had happened to me.
The refinery blew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and I saw the mushroom cloud on the horizon.
I had been waiting for it my whole life.

We never actually hid under our desks at school–I think that was because it was private and not public school. But I had hear about it so often it was as if…

I had been waiting my whole life for someone to believe what I saw.
It was as if it was my fault.
As if it had happened to me.
A blue door leading into a Persian garden.

Stranded: Poem by John Macker

Stranded by John Macker

for Gary Snyder

It’s 3:28 p.m., I’m just another writer at a snowed-in
airport between teaching gigs waiting for the jet to de-ice
and take me to somewhere in the Upper Midwest.
At this moment, some of the dead in here are still breathing,
I’ve been elected president of this last bar in the terminal
and the polar express is taking no prisoners. Our ipads
are beaming us up, some reservation for the harshest climate on
mother earth has been made for me in my absence.
Absinthe is one of the magic words I repeat for complete
strangers until they realize I write verse in America. I try to
tell the children high on lack of sleep and adrenaline,
they’re going nowhere fast. Like a carnivore, I rip to
shreds snippets of conversation I’ve overheard like:
everything that happens in Milwaukee stays in Milwaukee
until it happens here. I smile to myself: that was a good one
and fire up a celebratory joint until I’m told by two lone
gun men to extinguish all smoking materials, fasten my
illegal smile and recall the last airport poem I read where the
poet wrote: most of my work, such as it is, is done.
Well, Gary, easy for you to say. I look out onto a frozen
silent wasteland that was once the tarmac: my loitering
has become a sacrament; my stillness, the void.

Haibun from Ursula Moeller

R & I found tiny brook seeping as we climbed to 11,300’ on our mountain today, vainly mushroom searching.
BUT had snack by bog with many gentians, pleasing this Austrian woman’s heart!!
Edelweiss, gentian and Alpen rose the 3 national flowers for Austria (my parents told me)

1
moist bog
gentian flowers echo sky
happy Austrian

2
deep woods; sit still
listen: jump, scurry, flit, fly
tiny but alive

Summer by Miriam Sagan or Where I’m At

Creative process is sometimes deep and wide, sometimes ephemeral. Like my dreams, it reflects the world but not always in an exact way. My book of poetry about astronomy, Star Gazing, is out from Cholla Needles Press! That was about nine months in the making, a focused and even pressured process. I’m completing a novella, Shadow on the Minotaur, due out from Red Mountain in 2021. Fiction can be a lot more laborious for me–I’m almost four years in.
So–what now? Since January I’ve been dabbling in a memoir I’m calling Stash–flash pieces, often about childhood. Yesterday’s blog post on ankle socks is part of it, as is today’s musing on the season and the goodness–or lack of goodness–of God.

Summer

We lie in the lawn and eat what we can forage—mostly tasty onion grass. I pick three-leafed clovers and peel another leaf to add to them.
“Look! Four-leafed clover!” I tell my dubious younger siblings.
“What’s this?” My brother holds up a tiny daisy.
“A daisy,” I say.
“No,” he says, “a sunflower…only very very far away.”
He will grow up and become an architect.
My father is out with the weed killer and a spiked tool that pulls up roots. It is a two-acre lot. That is a lot of weeds. The lawn is mostly bluegrass, but it also has its primeval edges…moss, violets, forage. Once we see a caterpillar wasp paralyze its prey and lay its eggs in the still living mass of protein. It is just this wasp that made Charles Darwin doubt a benevolent God, but we are children. As such, we know only God’s tyranny, and the random cruelty of the universe. The wasp does not bother us. It is just following its nature. As is my father—spraying and pulling. He works the front lawn while we sit in the back blowing every dandelion head that comes to hand. The lovely fairy-winged seeds float innocently on our breath, looking to land.

Once Again I’m Thinking About Underwear–in this case Ankle Socks by Miriam Sagan

Ankle Socks

At the end of Second Grade, my friend Buffalo Mary Ann announces: No more ankle socks for us!

What!?

Once we go up to the big school, we’ll have to wear knee socks. Or…peds.

Oh no.

Third grade—through Sixth—is in an old mansion up the hill. Apparently it means a change of footwear.

No more ankle socks? But I love ankle socks, love how they look, how they feel. They seem to give my feet a life of their own, often with folded down frills. My feet look like cupcakes, trimmed in pink or red scalloping. Sometimes the socks even have little bumblebees embroidered on them.

I hate knee socks, so confining and itchy.

Little do I know just how bad it is going to get. Garter belts and nylons once I reach puberty. But then, shazam, soon after my menarche, miraculously pantyhose come in and I have neon green ones and orange ones and sheer plaid ones. Then footless tights, which I wear to this day.

And with footless tights, of course, I wear ankle socks. I am sixty-six years old and I have a basket full to the brim of ankle socks.

I have never worn peds, those disgusting nylon slip-ons that cover just the foot, ever in my life. And now I don’t even worry that I ever will.

I count myself beyond lucky that my female form was never crammed into a girdle or corset. That I often do not wear a bra. But as mobility is the most important thing to me, I love that my legs can breathe while my toes are protected and enclosed. Ankle socks.

Two Poems by Kate O’Neill

Based on photographs by Ansel Adams.

Sunset, Ghost Ranch, 1937

The way light falls clouds could become
an abacus: summing, totaling, subtracting.

First to penumbra then to iridescence.
If clouds had black & white flecked

wings like a speckled flicker: evanescent,
eloquent: each would have it’s own

unpredictable destiny, alighting for an
instant, stunningly embellished.

***

Sunrise, Laguna Pueblo, 1937

Major chords enter percussive,
across the scene from left, bend

around corners, sound-bounce reflections
from mudded walls. Woke-dog stands solid on

four legs, ears up, tail illumined, face eclipsed.
Indentations in the foot-travelled dirt shatter light

like bitten glass. Stone walls glitter silver as a
tin-mercury mirror amalgam refracts. Not long

ago a west wind moved through here and left the
clouds a mess: inconsolable wisps. As if they were

broken in a dissonant crescendo. Lost, torn-up, scared. The
tall adobe church walls look smooth to the touch, as if made

from ivory, golden fine butter cream, corn silk, old lace,
goat skin—its polished, caressed body newly awakening.

Field Institute, Taos Ski Valley

I love things posted on trees. Of course I wish these were poems, but they are charming pieces created by kids that explain the natural history of the area. Sort of like a field guide. Rich was pleased to see wild raspberries properly labelled.

wild raspberries
suddenly I see
the bear in you