Childhood of A Good Person: Poem by Miriam Sagan

old fruit tree
propped on a crutch
like a legless veteran

in a doorway

on the temple grounds
line of stone buddhas
weathered out

I try
to not just be
a tourist—-offer coins
in the box
but pass the beggar

I can’t tell
if I had the childhood
of a good person
or a less good one
but please
don’t trouble yourself
too much
after all
I’ve come this far
on my own

Sestina by John Macker

It is always thrilling to discover a poet through another poet…

Elements of Mystery and Surprise

Nicanor Parra said, “take back everything I said”
anti-poetry was his game and he took it to his grave
his vernacular Chilean love fest with language
permeated my life with hard-edged oblivious
soul and a militant wonder at everything that moves,
that is beautiful or sorcerous, everything a surprise.

That he died at 104 in January is no surprise,
he took his wild white hair with him to his grave
and for a moment I thought of my mother’s oblivious
end, and how silence is its own language
how it stalks and centers the mind, how it moves
through rooms on its own recognizance, left unsaid.

“In poetry everything is permissible,” or so he said.
You can’t improve the blank page from the grave.
I’ve always been attracted to sorcerers of language,
who braved elements, who watched winter’s blind moves
without flinching, who used words that enticed and surprised
who romanced each word with a knowing. Death to the oblivious.

Like those beautiful Chileans Bolaño and Neruda, oblivious
to the sorceries and machinations of fate, they stalked language
with the white hot passion of martyred saints, there ain’t no grave
worth its weight in silence that could still the bold surprise
of their words. Nothing left unspoken but everything left to be said:
winter drives us deeper in, the wind takes a breath but still moves.

Across landscapes wretched with drought, the ancients move
with the alacrity of wind, each track, each bone is a surprise
and if we dig deep enough, the words appear in a language
we don’t recognize but we do, where whispers of wind once said:
everything is permitted, nothing survives the ground, even the oblivious
can take root. Even then the world seemed cruel, its condition grave

its dancing black ghost horses stared at ghost borders on ghost graves.
I visit my mother’s grave and everything we said
is above the ground, in the wind, safe in a quiet house oblivious
the passages of time. I think of her, of Nicanor, how memory moves
us from one dimension to another. Every blank page a surprise.
Nicanor, your anti- is my anti-. I remind myself that snow is the language

of silence. Chile is a long way from Colorado, a different language.
A kid in winter is waiting for the bus in the wind, it moves
him to allow for the coming mysteries and the elements of surprise.

John Macker

Nicanor, young and old, from Wikipedia.

It’s Been Beautiful Today In Northern New Mexico–haiku and photograph


Vallecitos, New Mexico 12.12.15
Photograph by Hope Atterbury

before snow
burning the fields—
Taos mountain

behind white curtains.
piñon smoke

in the mirror
a glimpse
of emptiness

my thoughts
unravel the past

an old story
the river wears the canyon

dream tossed
in rumpled

of the shortest days
still streaks pink

Meetings With Remarkable Poets: in which Peggy Pond Church holds my hand

It’s funny how and when certain memories surface.On Friday, I was honored to be interviewed by Lynn Cline on KSFR. She is very knowledgeable about New Mexico literary history, and mentioned Peggy Pond Church.
In 1985 or so, soon after I came to New Mexico, I had the remarkable experience of giving a poetry reading with Peggy Pond Church in Taos. Already blind and quite deaf, she sat right next to me when I read, holding my hand. She seemed like a darling old lady, but her toughness was also in evidence. I don’t think I had even yet read her masterpiece “The Woman At Otowi Crossing.”

An excellent article about her life appears at

Her death was also to have meaning for me. As the Taos profile says: “Eventually, however, her eyesight and hearing began to decline and diminish her quality of life. She died October 23, 1986, a date of her “own choosing.” In a letter left for friends and family, Peggy explained her decision.
‘It has long been my belief that in old age when the body fails we should be permitted to lay it down at a time of our own choosing and allow the spirit to go free. To a poet, death is another phase of life. In this age of vociferous right-to-lifers, I feel that death has rights too and needs to be made a friend of.’ “
I remember discussing this with my friend Elizabeth Searle Lamb. As a young person, I was somewhat shocked. “Now dear,” Elizabeth began. That “dear” always signaled to me that she was about to impart something important. And she explained to me why she was sympathetic to this way of thinking.
Elizabeth died many years later of natural causes, but as I am now 60 and looking forward with some of the same focus and trepidations I feel grateful to have known of Church’s decision.
And I’m amazed that I held her hand.