Forest Fire Spotter, Lighthouse Keeper, Hotdog Stand Owner, Writer by Mark Pumphrey

A lone forest fire spotter sits Zen-like in a tower at the top of a slope in the Gila National Forest as he has done day in and day out for the past twelve years. He cannot read—distracting. He cannot watch television—eyes on the forest. He cannot talk on his phone—bad signal and too much dividing of his attention in case of a fire. He can only sit zazen, staring into the green and blue as they meet just above the tree line on the other shore above the lake below him. He had a canary once, but the canary died. And the forestry department did not approve of the canary.

The fire spotter chose his job and it chose him. He was one of those individuals, along with lighthouse keepers, hotdog stand owners and writers, who must have freedom before they can breathe. Who must be alone before they can ever be with other people. Who must have silence and inertness before any action can arise in them.

When the fire comes, he is then ready, and bolts into action, in the zone required for a sensible and efficient resolution of a dangerous situation.

The lonely lighthouse keeper, wife long dead, groping in the dark on a wind-swept, stormy shore, being overcome with an internal darkness except when in the tower watching out for the boats in distress in the night, is a stereotype that may be closer to the reality than we think. Am I the only person who has ever longed for such an existence?

The independence of the hot dog stand owner-master of his own destiny, answering to no one but himself, is probably a myth. Those buns and condiments have to come from somewhere. But how many of us as working stiffs whose creativity has been stamped out by the gods of bureaucracy have not longed to be our own boss, doing our own thing and doing it in the way we believe to be the most meaningful?

As a writer, I too, must have quiet. I must be alone. No café writing for me. No putting pen to paper before first sitting and emptying my mind of all thought. Only then can the real writing of consequence occur. Only then can meaning come into the writing, for my self and for others who choose to read what I have written.


This piece was written earlier this month in a Tumblewords workshop on zoom from El Paso. The prompt was a painting by Margarete Bagshaw that references forest fire, “The Day The Sun Turned Red”  36″ X 48″
In honor of Indian Market, 2011

First Sculpture Up In Poetry Yard

Desiccation: Dormancy: Deluge, a sculpture by Isabel Winson-Sagan, is the first piece to go up in the Yard. It is made of wood and the plastic caps off of baby formula. It references forest fire, and the flooding caused by ecological destruction.

The photographs are by Matthew Morrow.

Miriam and Isabel are a mother/daughter creative dup working under the name Maternal Mitochondria.

If you are interested in visiting the Yard or proposing a project, contact us at

Artist’s Statement from Isabel Winson-Sagan
Miriam Sagan will be opening The Poetry Yard this year, an outside space where sculpture and poetry can be fully experienced. Here is a sneak peak at the first sculpture to go up- a permanent feature of the yard. Made entirely of recycled materials, this land art project helps direct rainfall by incorporating a dry pond. The sculpture’s relationship with the land may change over time- will the wood rot when exposed to water? Or will it remain an ever present reminder of fire and drought? As our climate changes, the sculpture may reflect that change on a local level. Along with the ambiguity and anxiety of climate change, “Desiccation: Dormancy: Deluge” brings up issues of human consumption and how different organisms feed. The sculpture takes inspiration from saprophytic fungi (mushrooms that consume dead wood) and the twin processes of parasitic and symbiotic growth. The plastic and dairy industries are an ambiguous two-edged sword- using unsustainable environmental practices while at the same time greatly expanding human access to food and vital resources. So the question is: how do we achieve a balance between human needs and biological destruction?
The text on the piece reads:
(A triangle) Between me / G-d / and the water

Free Haibun Workshop on Zoom

Santa Fe Community College Library Presents

Haibun Workshop with Miriam Sagan

Haibun is the prose and haiku combination first developed in Japan. It can be considered the original hybrid form! We’ll learn about haibun and write pieces that include timed writing, diary entries, and flash memoir. We’ll practice with placement of haiku, contrast, and metaphorical thinking. For writers at all levels. Background material and resources will be sent to each participant before the workshop

Tuesday, October 5th from 6-8pm (Mountain Time)
Haibun (haiku & prose) Workshop via Zoom
Free and open to the public but space is limited, and participants must register.
To register: write

Climate Change Haiku

coastal storm surge
every ten years
coastlines change

black clouds overhead
urban heat
pushes them out

Christa Pandey, Austin, TX


Placitas in drought
Juniper needles crumble
Even goatheads can’t sprout

Stuck inside today
Compost fire in South Valley
No patio lunch

Hundreds drown in Europe
Rio Grande’s a trickle
Cuidado con La Llorona!

John Roche
Albuquerque, NM


my edges melt like ice cream
finally puddle

Ursula Moeller
Santa Fe, NM

Climate Change Haiku by Karla Linn Merrifield

Author’s Note: I’ve had the recent good fortune to meet a local farmer who, among other things, grows for Bird’s Eye. The woes he’s been experiencing in the onslaught of days upon days of rain engendered these lines. Thank you, Ken Mattingly of M-B Farms.

Rain, rain, then more rain.
Sweet peas rot in sodden fields.
Price is an object.


Another acre
up in smoke. And another.
How high can you count?


The wettest summer
here,  the driest there.
No where average.

You Got Mail Yesterday, Which Is Unsettling Because You’ve Been Dead For More Than Twenty-Five Years

It was from New Mexico Taxation and Revenue, which hounds both the living and the dead. Out of an atavistic fear that you owed money, I opened it. But they merely wanted to inform you of some changes.

I also want to inform you of some changes. Trump is no longer president. But then again, you never knew that he was. I’m not even sure you knew who he was at all.

And you have a grandchild, with an Irish name. But she doesn’t know who you are. When she is older, you’ll be a sad story–a scary one–about how her mom’s dad died. We have photographs. But I doubt she’ll ever care that the maternal grandfather she calls Pop Pop and asks for pickles is a step-grandfather.

Drought is here, but that is hardly new. As for the rest, I’ve grown tired of trying to keep you informed because things change, and you do not.

all that is left

of the blue spruce tree–

an aging stump