Surprise Bones as Writing Process – Part 1 of a Travelogue by Michael G. Smith

Editor’s Note: When my friend Michael set off, I encouraged him to write up some of his thoughts and adventures for Miriam’s Well. I’m delighted to present: Surprise Bones as Writing Process – Part 1 of a Travelogue.

I am on a six-month road trip through Utah, Nevada and along the Pacific Coast north of the Bay Area. Ultimately I will arrive in Bozeman, MT where I do chemistry research at Montana State University four months per year. One reason for the circuitous route is to shake up my writing practice and skills. The process feels stagnant. My poems have lost zip and creativity. It seemed to me a diverse range of terrain, ecosystems, ecotones, climates, towns and people would be good medicine. Surprise and uncertainty these medicines’ healing properties, I am going to trust providence, karma and kismet.
Today I am in Hanksville, UT, a sneeze-through town forty miles east of Capital Reef National Park. On my way to the park several days ago I stopped here for breakfast. While eating at Duke’s SlickRock Grill my waiter asked me about my road trip plans. A couple at the next table overheard the conversation and started telling me about a nearby dinosaur fossil dig, the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry. I had never heard of it, but Bob and Nancy, whom are volunteers at the site, encouraged me to spend time there later in the week when they would be digging.
I was a little irked someone suggested I change my westward plans. Nothing about the portly appearance of Bob and Nancy indicated they would be comfortable or enjoy hours beneath a hot sun chipping through hard sandstone. But as I listened to them it became clear this Houston geologist and paleontologist couple knew the terrain and dinosaurs. And this was their tenth consecutive spring dig season.
Other fossil hunters joined the conversation. The restaurant was full of them! Retired volunteers, university students, and interns and staff from natural history museums chimed in with tales of river basins, floods and sauropods – tales from a former world brought alive to the present. The magnitude of their enthusiasm hinted their quarry was special. The cardboard cutout of John Wayne behind the bar suggested I did not need to spend much time indoors.
I then remembered a rule I set before departing Santa Fe – if a detour involved the natural world I would readily apply the brakes and turn. Something 150 million years old and still revealing itself is something to brake for. My dinosaur-loving niece, whom I would see a few weeks later, would love the stories and pictures. I modified my post-Capital Reef westward plans, vowing to return in a few days.
Now at Duke’s campground I jot down bones I have unearthed that help my writing process – keep eyes and ears open, ask questions, take notes, know that I know little (which is true!). Be willing to explore. Take the unexpected turn when offered. Dismiss nothing, including exuberant fossil-hunters. Backtrack when necessary. Read maps. Accept, accept, accept. Use a real compass with real magnetic needles – the smartphone app may lead you astray. When hiking up and down graveled hills to take pictures remain mindful of rattlesnakes – they are camouflaged. Each sentence is metaphor.
Next up – Fossil Digging as Writing Process

Which Sang Of Butterflies Deeply by Judy Katz-Levine

Which Sang Of Butterflies Deeply

There was thunder, a downpour.
My friends are sleeping,
maybe a dream like a candle
with the face and eyelids of
someone ill from cancer.

We wonder if we will be next,
the room here is graced with
masks and prints of
Kandinsky and an abstract of a
marsh with green rushes long water lilies

friends – a tract of sea
on expanse of white sand

There is a native American dream
catcher on the wall, though
my dreams have been stolen,
feather mask watching mute
as rain before it rains
There’s a doll, a puppet from

We talked about a woman who
died too young, after her words
were buried forever, and the angels
and the angles of the face of my friend
with dark grays in planes from the late
night hair just white with strands of gray
and black, it was beautiful
when she was tired after
a meeting to free prisoners.

Her husband was falling asleep
after the concert and the cello
which sang of butterflies deeply
flying and infinitely small and huge

I am one who can fly
in a waking dream. I can fly
to a lover, kiss her in invisible
places, nipples
of dogwood flower, no one knows.
They would think something,
they would think something else,

I am told my best friend is
a symphony, with thighs
of lilac that I brush
in the divine light
across her lips.

I am one who can laugh
in the bathroom, when she comes to tell me
I am beautiful
in the shower of flute cadenzas
a blues for sure
with the words “honey”
in the invisible light of flight
that has no name

The lamp is singing in the great room
when I want to slip into azure spaces
in sleepless fields.

Judy Katz-Levine

Revision Process Based on Physical Limitations

I originally wrote this poem for the geocache Iz and I are doing inside the painted eggs:

shell of the cosmos
cracks with light
yolk of suns

chickens in the yard
cluck over their bit of earth
beneath the rooster’s comb

follow the trail
with your dog, taking a stroll
with your heart on a leash

things also allow us—
the report of rain,
raven feather, the past

a deathless ogre in the fairytale
store a soul in a needle
in a nest in a tree

in an egg
in a Canadian goose
in a jackrabbit

locked in an iron chest
buried beneath a green juniper
in the Chihuahuan desert

it’s dangers
to hide all of your spirit
outside of yourself

and yet this land
compels all of those
who walk it.

But then we realized it was too long, we weren’t looking for that many sections So I reduced it:

shell of the cosmos
cracks with light
yolk of suns

follow the trail
with your dog, taking a stroll
with your heart on a leash

a deathless ogre in the fairytale
stores a soul in a needle
in a nest in a tree

locked in an iron chest
buried beneath a green juniper
in the Chihuahuan desert

it’s dangerous
to hide all of your spirit
outside of yourself

and yet this land
compels all of those
who walk it.

It’s obviously better for the project, and it is tighter. A little something has been lost–maybe in terms of music–but such is revision. Your thoughts? Have you ever experienced this?

Poetry Month #8: A Fibonacci Poem by Karen O’Leary


and dwell,
mingling mute,
in the world’s beauty.
The cumulus clouds wave over
the field until the tide changes, and the moon’s light shines.

By Karen O’Leary

Karen O’Leary is a writer and editor from West Fargo, ND. She has published poetry, short stories, and articles in a variety of venues including, Frogpond, A Hundred Gourds, Haiku Pix, bear creek haiku, Now This: Contemporary Poems of Beginnings, Renewals and Firsts, Creative Inspirations, and cattails. She currently edits an online poetry journal called Whispers,

Poetry Month # 3: Elinor Wylie

My patient is in her bed, asleep. Her grey hair, not completely white, is greasy and untended. She is dying, just not right this minute. I unfold the little chair I am carrying and sit next to her. I am not a long lost family member who has traveled miles to see her. I am just a volunteer. And so there is no reason to wake her. I sit and knit a cabled scarf. Knit one, purl two. The scarf is in blocks of color, the wool is forty years old, hand dyed by a friend who was once a weaver. She found an old box of yarn and gave it to me.
The patient in bed, when lucid, has said she likes poetry What is poetry? I figure it should rhyme. I open the heavy paperback of Penguin Women poets. Elinor Wylie seems like a safe bed. Emily Dickinson has too much about death. Does anyone read Elinor Wylie anymore? I doubt it. It is light and feminine and doesn’t really go anywhere, I think I shouldn’t insult it, but I tend to. But it reads well aloud. Then I read a Marianne Moore-—better to my ears but maybe not better if you are an old lady dying.
She breaths. In. Out. I fold up my chair, pack my knitting. In a way, I don’t want to go. I want to stay forever, until she dies. But I go.

Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There’s something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There’s something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom’s breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

From “Wild Peaches”

Elinor Wylie