Spouses: Poem by Miriam Sagan

A few days after the 4th, but still relevant. From my book of poetry START AGAIN (Red Mountain, 2022). This is an earlier version than the published one, a bit harsher and I’m in the mood for it.


“What’s that noise?” the wife asks the husband
even after so many years

night noises, raccoons, and the Federal Government
are his problem to solve.

It’s not late, before midnight
“Firecrackers?” he speculates

although it sounds like gunshot
and we’re just blocks from the capitol building

where armed men show the threat of force
against our governor.

That sounds straightforward,
but really I don’t understand

what they want
other than to bully us with a supposed right.

But probably the husband is correct,
It’s midsummer’s night, and America’s birthday

a few weeks away
although frankly I’m not sure

this country of mine
deserves much of a party.

Much later, towards the witching hour
skunks head home and spray

through our bathroom window
that opens on the narrow alley

that creatures use to cross.
The thrashers are sleeping

in the blossoming cholla bush,
not once in all these years

has the invisible neighbor’s orange cat
manage to catch a bird

in all those cactus needles.

Stone Quarry Hill Art Park

I like following what is going on at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in upstate New York. I have fond memories of being an artist-in-residence there. Here is a poem–published in SEVEN PLACES IN AMERICA–written there:

Body Of

body of water

body of work

yellow mustard field
body of evidence

body of liberties

body of knowledge

body of research

body of principals

body of water

Stone Quarry Hill Art Park
Today we celebrate new work by visiting artist Jen Dawson. ‘Super Natural’ is composed of cement, wire mesh, and braided and patinated steel wool. The bodily nature of the work embraces change— the steel wool will quickly rust and transform, creating dichotomies of seduction and recoil, welcoming and resistance. Experience the dynamic and complex ‘Super Natural’ located in the Secret Garden.
Thank you @jendawsonart for working tirelessly and enthusiastically, rain or shine, this week at the park.
ID: A large rounded and blunt rock-like structure with large black and brown braids crowning the top and sides.


Untitled by Donald Judd. Poem by Miriam Sagan

I went to the show at the Albuquerque Museum of prints done at the Tamarind Institute. I took home a postcard of this Donald Judd.

It really caught my interest. I took it to a writing retreat in Pagosa Springs and propped it over my desk. I wrote a short section for each image–often several a day. It seemed like each poem/section worked individually, but did they make a whole?

Thanks to the Pine Cone Review for publishing all of it! https://thepineconereview.com/miriam-sagan-untitled-after-donal-judd-set-of-20-woodcuts-issue-4/

Here is the opening:

after Donald Judd
set of 20 woodcuts

West Texas is
big. When my father
stroked out
we drove east to Amarillo
but going no closer nor
further away
than we usually were
from his ravaged brain.

Drove east to an ancient
flint mine, a bar-b-que place
twice the size of our city block,
a large gin and tonic.

Some things are so large
there is no way around them.

The Zen Master Sees Me in My Pajamas by Miriam Sagan

The Zen Master Sees Me in My Pajamas

at the threshold of my room
in the monastery.
Mistakes, too numerous to mention
and too complicated to go into right now
led to this moment.
He is in his exquisite
hand sewn kimono
with a gold over cloth.
I’m in pjs printed with pink roses,
a cheap knock off
of a fancier brand
with smaller roses.

Both the pajamas
and the zen master
are long gone
from my life
but even now
I rely
on the great bright mantra:
gone, gone, gone into the cool, oh mama.

9th volume of Otherwise Engaged Literature and Arts Journal featuring my work is available now:

And yes, those last lines are a direct homage to poet Phil Whalen, who “translated” Maha Prajna Paramita in a similar fashion.

STASH–a new chapbook from Miriam Sagan

This is memoir, mostly of childhood, mixed with poetry. Here is a section.

The Snake

The boy wanted the snake. Ten years old, my first husband stood by the side of the pond in the deciduous woods. The snake was thick, thick as his boyish wrist, and he was good with snakes; often caught them and took them home. Kept them alive and what passed as happy for a snake in a glass terrarium, fed them mice. His mother forbade this, despaired, eventually collapsed and gave in. She just refused to clean his room. He kept it tidy.
And this snake was free of charge. Twisted on a branch out in the water, healthy skin, its sharp, glittering eyes perceived like part of its brain. Its tongue tasted the air. He tried and tried, using every trick he knew. Another, longer branch, like the snake handler he was. But the snake would not comply. The pond was too murky, too cold, too deep. The sun began to set. And then the snake swam off, in the opposite direction. Tired and muddy, he went home.
And looked up the snake in his big snake book. And identified it properly for the first time. It was a species of pit viper. The world’s only semiaquatic viper, and New Jersey could be the top of its range. North America’s only venomous water snake. As an adult, it was large and capable of delivering a painful and potentially fatal bite.
It was a water moccasin, and it could kill a child.
He’d tell me this story more than once when we were married, and it would remain the story of the one who got away—the snake. But to me it was the story of the one who got away but was surely coming back—death.

From Cyberwit in India–I’ve enjoyed working with them.
I also have a few to give away–just ask me at msagan1035@aol.com

Poems of Peace and War: Laguna Blue by Mary Ann Crowe

Laguna Blue

In this springtime of yet another wartime
perfectly manicured wisteria blooms
beautifully as ever along Catalina Street
namesake of that elusive island
disappearing now in fog or again in smog
to return some clearer day
Four weeks after the invasion of Ukraine
protesters clothed in yellow and blue
outnumber volleyball players
at historic Main Beach
Honk if you support Ukraine!
while resident pelicans are displaced by Osprey
helicopters flying menacing low in single file
as if strafing the defenseless shoreline
dangerous practice for their next assignment 

Half a block up from hibiscus and bougainvillea
thriving at the corner of Cleo
a homeless man lies motionless on Sleepy Hollow
still as one of the dead outside Kharkiv
or Mariupol––
should I call 911?––
but he has turned over to his other side
by the time we return with groceries––
proof he must be alive, just one of too many
desperate wanderers flung by circumstance
here to the continent’s far Western edge
its scenic farewell a decoration of aquamarine
bays and crescent-shaped stolen beaches
golden treasure once claimed by Spain

Three Questions for Maya Janson

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

My relationship to the line is largely intuitive, which requires that I feel my way through the poem, trying to look and listen in order to know what’s called for. There often seems to be some secret (to me) mechanism at work in each poem, something that drives the way the line wants to be handled. I don’t know in advance what this is, nor how the poem will ultimately look on the page, so there’s a lot of messing around, trying out different line lengths and playing with enjambment, though too much of the latter and the poem begins to wobble. At the same time, I like to at least occasionally use the line as a sense-making unit, that is, breaking at a place that allows a natural phrase or an interesting cluster of words to stand alone, in order to be highlighted. Generally I find myself appreciating the orderliness that happens with a more unified line in each poem, enjoying the visual effect of lines that end more or less at the same point on the page.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

The sitting at a desk part of writing happens in short bursts. It’s not only restlessness that drives me outdoors but something akin to wanting to aerate the poem with the breath of the larger world. There’s something physical needed, sometimes in the initial generative part of any given piece and most especially in the revision process. There’s a power in putting one foot in front of the other while working the poem out in the head. I think this might have to do with finding the music of the lyric, using the body to pound out the sound patterns. There’s also the encounter with the worldly elements, being blown about or rained on, and other-worldly elements too, that brings a fullness beyond my one small life into the poem. Basho, the Japanese poet known for wandering, is said to have spoken of his walking and poem-making as conversations between a ‘ghost and a ghost-to-be’.  I too like to situate myself on that continuum.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

By any measure, to live a life that allows me to write poetry marks me as one of the fortunate few. To have something that brings me joy and sorrow, in one small package—again, how lucky! Without poetry as a lens the world would be a little less colorful. And still, even after many years of doing it, I’m sometimes surprised to find myself writing poems and identifying myself as a poet. As a child I read only fiction and imagined growing up and writing stories. I didn’t begin reading poetry until I was in my early twenties, and then it was only because my best friend was a poet. Once I started writing poetry however, there was no going back. While there’s not much in the way of regret, there is much that is oddly quirky about the practice that places it outside mainstream ways of thinking/talking that sometimes, in certain circles, I feel reticent about claiming. This is especially true when it comes to sharing my poems with people who don’t read or write poetry, more so with those who confess to not liking or understanding poetry.  How to explain the weirdness of the poetic obsession? Mostly I don’t even try.
Maya Janson’s first book, Murmur & Crush, was published by Hedgerow Books. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies and she has received fellowships from MacDowell and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she has worked as a lecturer in creative writing at Smith College and as a community mental health nurse.Her newest book, “On The Mercy Me Planet” has just been published by Blue Edge Books.

To order:


I’m extremely excited to be reading twice next weekend for Chatter. And I can’t wait to hear the music!
• Doors open at 10am—concert 10:30
• In accordance with SITE’s building policy, face masks are now optional.
• COVID protocols are subject to change.
• This concert will be held in SITE’s Meyerson Auditorium.

Lee Hyla Warble
Charles Ives Violin Sonata no. 2
Nino Rota Trio for Flute, Violin, and Piano
Jesse Tatum flute
David Felberg violin
Judith Gordon piano
Miriam Sagan poet

NEXT SUNDAY: April 10, 10:30 am
At 912 3rd in Albuquerque
• As the risk from COVID in our community decreases, Chatter is changing our policies in line with other local theaters and arts presenters.
• For events in April, we will no longer be verifying vaccination status for entry to Chatter.
• Masks will continue to be required of the audience when not consuming food or drink, and we will continue to provide supplemental air filtration.
• These protocols are subject to change.

Stephanie Ann Boyd Aurora
Julia Gomelskaya the hint only
Richard Cameron-Wolfe Code of un-silence: a prayer
Juantio Becenti Divertimento no. 5 “Melodrama” (Chatter commission)
Jesse Tatum flute
Jeff Rogers horn
Ruxandra Marquardt violin
James Holland cello
Jeff Cornelius percussion
Judith Gordon piano
David Felberg conductor
Miriam Sagan poet

Check details & get tickets at:

Fairy House Preview

So exciting–we’re entering the third year of poetry in the fairy houses on the dog path of Santa Fe Skies RV Park off of Route 14.
We’ve enjoyed hosting poems by Bill Waters, and are thrilled to preview Devon Miller-Duggan. Here is one of her poems. All of them will be installed by early summer. Stay tuned!


All the dogs know we’re here.
None of the dogs wants you to know
what they know about our sun-cap and curved gills.
None of the dogs believe you’d believe
the dreams we puff out just for them,
just for them through the S of our door.
Look closely as you can,
closely, closely. Perhaps
your dog will breathe just right
so that you glimpse
rainbows just behind the door.

Mushroom with sculptor Tim Brown, whose vision infuses the themes of the Fairy Houses.

Poems of Peace and War

1962, a What-If
by John Roche

It occurs to me that, until this past week,
the world had not been in danger of nuclear annihilation since I was in second grade,
during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a world event I was only vaguely aware of.

And if it had ended in 1962 in a brilliant flash,
I would have ended my short life without having experienced grief.
No assassination of JFK a year later.
No moon landing.
No death of beloved pets.
No grieving for grandparents and parents.
No marriage and divorce and remarriage.
No career turbulence.
No political or cultural turbulence.
No poetry, aside from cereal ad jingles.
No travels further than the beach or the zoo.
No visits to Los Alamos and Alamogordo and the Trinity Site.
No experience of war except as Saturday matinee.
No grief except for Mantle’s force–out that gave the Giants the Series.

Just a boy at his school desk,
struggling with long division and completing reading modules,
dreaming about a different ending for the World Series.


Ben-Gurion’s Dream
by Phil Geronimo

When the rage regurgitates from the bile in your belly

And the sun fries your skin to discomfort

When the visions of children being bombed with precision

Brings an anger to your liver

Then you must live with it

You must scream from your toes

So that the sound will expose your part in it

A ten year old girl stands in the rubble of her heritage

She wants to make a difference

She wants to be a doctor

She wants the bombs to end so she can love again

Bur her tears are the tears of confusion

Her dreams are for a better place

A place without ceasing

The releasing of the dream from its ending

The twisting of her fate from her brown skin