The Concrete Ships: Poem by Miriam Sagan

The Concrete Ships

At first you thought
the tankers in the shipping lane

weren’t real, but some kind
of mystic breakwater

then they seemed real enough
to leave, and go in search of

of something else
nine concrete ships

piled up in the Chesapeake
to protect from storms, and the imagination

that balks
at floating perpendicular skyscrapers

ghosts of war
never leave certain shores

is its own holy grail quest.

As children
we rather loved

the huge fractured hull
sinking in the sand

broken off, a monument
to failure, wreckage

not unlike our scarred exhausted

who still could tell
quite a story.

It rained al night
off Hatteras

the place names
soothe me like a lullaby

but even the strongest lighthouse
can be displaced

and dreams dashed
over these rocks.


Photos from Atlas Obscura

North Rim: Poem by Miriam Sagan

From a recent visit to the Grand Canyon.


North Rim

it’s not often I can see like this
sitting beneath the twisted pinon tree
that breaks a stone boulder
it’s a far view in both directions
appears as mineral
layers of the Colorado Plateau
cut like a surgical patient
to reveal
a slow intensity
of hope

tourists pass going up and down the trail
snapping pics of themselves, each other
wide open meaning of earth

it seems simple
to be either
at the rim or the river
but it’s not…

psalm of updrafts
raven’s flight
these wings might have created wind
roots might just be another way of saying branches
the fire burns and burns
leaves charred trunks and small aspens
clusters of little sisters
girls of the trembling leaves
turning yellow, orange, autumn
equinox sitting cross-legged
cradling my cane
who sees me, sees just another person
feels cold, heat

give me a kiss

Labour Poetry in China

One genre winning admiration from the literati is called dagong shige or “labour poetry”. Its most famous practitioner was Xu Lizhi, who worked on an assembly line for Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm that makes most of Apple’s iPhones. Before he committed suicide in 2014, at the age of 24, he had written almost 200 poems about the drudgery of factory work. Among the best known is “I Swallowed An Iron Moon”:
I swallowed an iron moon 
they called it a screw 
I swallowed industrial wastewater and unemployment forms 
bent over machines, our youth died young 
I swallowed labour, I swallowed poverty 
swallowed pedestrian bridges, swallowed this rusted-out life 
I can’t swallow any more 
everything I’ve swallowed roils up in my throat 
I spread across my country 
a poem of shame
Many workers’ poems refer to homesickness, alienation, injuries and powerlessness. A few deliberately evoke beauty, in jarring contrast to their bleak surroundings. In “Sundress”, Wu Xia—a rare female worker-poet, hired by a textile factory at the age of 14—writes of her love for the “unknown girl” with the means to buy the garment she sews. She also thus lays bare the elusive promise of social mobility that drives so many to the assembly line: Ms Wu, now 40 and a published poet, still works at a clothing factory.
The packing area is flooded with light 
the iron I’m holding 
collects all the warmth of my hands 
I want to press the straps flat 
so they won’t dig into your shoulders when you wear it 
and then press up from the waist 
a lovely waist 
where someone can lay a fine hand 
and on the tree-shaded lane 
caress a quiet kind of love…

Selfie Interview on New Poetry Book: Me, Myself, and the Cosmos by Miriam Sagan

Me: Hi Mir! What’s new?

Me: Well…as you are probably are keeping up with world events I’ll focus on something personal and positive. I have a new book of poetry out. STAR GAZING from Cholla Needles.

Me: How did that happen?

Me: Well, last autumn I gave a reading in Joshua Tree. I love the Cholla Needles magazine. The whole poetry scene there felt great—so grassroots and homey, but full of interest. And editor Rich Soos is a quintessential small press publisher with a lot of heart. The whole thing just took me back to my roots in community and to a lifetime in independent publishing.

Me: Sounds nice! I bet you wanted to send them a manuscript.

Me: I did, but I couldn’t figure out what. Finally my husband Rich Feldman gave me the idea—a collected book of my poems about astronomy.

Me: Great idea! Did Rich realize it would all be about him?

Me: Maybe not at first. But he loves the sky, and has shown me a lot, so he has an, excuse me, “starring” role.

Me: The poems go back to the 80’s?

Me: Just a few. And I wrote a lot of new ones. One for each planet, in fact. But not following the usual archetypes. For example, Venus is “The Warrior.”

Me; Was it hard to pick what went in?

Me: Well, I discovered that the moon, or Venus, seems to rise in most of my poems! But I stuck to ones with a real astronomical theme, including observatories, model solar systems, comets, and yes, my famous cousin Carl.

Me: How can people get a copy?

Me: Well, Mir, there are copies stacked up in the study…oh, you mean OTHER people! For a signed/review copy just write me at
You can get a freebie from me for just a tiny review.

On Amazon:

Me: Are you happy?

Me: Usually I get nervous when a book comes out. But this volume has a really nice vibe—feels good, looks good. People seem to like it! So, yes.

Me: And what are you wearing?

Me: A Cosmic Shirt.

Me. Did you get that just to promo the book?

Me: Yup.

Poem by Leroy Quintana

Although I’ve anthologized his work, I was unfamiliar with the poems about Vietnam.

Armed Forces Recruitment Day
Albuquerque High School, 1962

After the Navy,
the Air Force, and
the Army,
Sgt. Castillo,
the Marine Corps
got a standing ovation
when he walked up
to the microphone
and said proudly
that unlike
the rest, all
he could promise
was a pack,
a rifle, and
a damned hard time.
Except for that,
he was the biggest
of liars.

Interview with Ya’el Chaikind: Counting the Omer / Revelations of the Heart

Editor’s note: I’m always interested in time and counting. And I follow Ya’el Chaikind’s Omer poems. Given that the pandemic may be altering or relationship to time, I interviewed her about her process.

What is your Omer poetry project?

Counting the Omer is an ancient Jewish custom where each spring you intentionally immerse in the spiritual Kabbalistic qualities of lovingkindness, boundaries, harmony, endurance, awe, foundation, and dignity for 49 days. The 50th day corresponds to the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, and is known as a time of revelation.

Counting the Omer begins on the second night of Passover. Passover is a Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom from slavery. Could it be that we need to free ourselves from old stories, beliefs, or habits that enslave us in order to receive these revelatory teachings? With the freedom of seven weeks to intentionally interact with these spiritual qualities, what new insights and perspectives will be revealed on the 50th day?

These are the intriguing questions for me. So, eight years ago, I decide to follow this cycle. I write a poem each day for 49 days and directly experience the potency of this sacred technology. Some days I have an hour to write, others, only fifteen minutes. The daily exercise of surrendering to my muse, writing a poem without
censoring myself, and then walking away without editing myself, has become a transformative spiritual practice that I repeat each year.

My book, Revelations of the Heart: A 49-Day Journey of Poems and Prompts to Write Your Way to Revelation, is a writing guide and poetry book that helps readers along their own transformative journeys, no matter what time of the year. It’s available on Amazon in soft cover and kindle. Check out my website for more information or if you want a personal guide on this journey. ( / )

PS: An “omer” is a unit of measure. On the second day of Passover, in the days of the Temple, an omer of barley was cut down and brought to the Temple as an offering. The next day, two measures of barley were offered. This continued for 49 days. The idea of counting each day represented spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah on Shavuot (the 50th day). (Leviticus 23:15).

How many years is this of the project?

This year marked my 8th year of Counting the Omer through poetry. That’s 392 poems!

How influenced by the pandemic were you? 

Each year my poems chronicle the intimate details of daily life, and this year was no exception with regards to the pandemic. Each year, I get more and more bold in my willingness to share my vulnerability with others, offering my Facebook friends a daily offering of my heart. Another revelation, to find strength and mutual support when practicing vulnerability! Like all art forms, the Omer provides me an outlet for creative expression. The pandemic definitely influenced me, but there is always something deeper to explore under every event, like universal themes of fear, sadness, finding joy in times of pain, where am I going to buy toilet paper, you know, that sort of thing.

Bio note
Ya’el Chaikind is a licensed psychotherapist, educator, book coach, author, poet, and storyteller living in Santa Fe, NM. Please visit her website for more information:



i call upon the indwelling
presence of a she-god, he-god,

searching for a vaccination
to innoculate me against
the darkness

skewing my vision as I search
the horizon for better days
to come and my hope

waxes and wanes in the fullness
of the moon holding up
the sky that might fall

what else can I do but remember
there is only love
there is only kindness

and sniff the freshly blossomed
fragrance of apricot flowers
tender and fleeting

like love, like kindness, renewing
their vows to have and to hold
my heart, forever.

Ya’el Chaikind
April 9, 2020 / 15 Nisan 5780

Omer Day 1:
Chesed Shebe Chesed
Lovingkindness within Lovingkindness




Closing the loop,
dotting my I’s, and
crossing my heart before I die
for tonight I tie the knot
with the Beloved.

Another journey ends,
only to begin again.

Each poem a prayer
that poked holes
in my inner hot air

Instead of deflation,
rising above
the Things That Do
Not Matter on
raven wings.

Tonight I step
towards you
another an inch
and watch as the gates
burst open, wide
enough for a chariot.

Those welcoming arms
that hold the world.

Loving you is
the revelation.

A dignified path that
helps me radically accept
and love myself.

Ya’el Chaikind
5.27.20 // 4 Sivan 5780

Omer Day 49:
Malchut Shebe Malchut
Majesty, Dignity, & Nobility within Majesty, Dignity, & Nobility

Poem by Levi Romero

Levi Romero, poet laureate of New Mexico, has a Facebook page I follow as it reads like a poetry blog, with particular emphasis on our state. Reprinted by permission, one of his dynamic poems below. Please enjoy!

Tres Copas de Chanate, Black and Sweet

¡Orale! Saludes de la calle cuarta
South 4th spicy street overflowing
With creamy joy and scornful sorrow
Resembling a faded watercolor painting
Rotting under the sun and growing tangled
‘Neath the billboard bosom signs of a new frontier

I have felt you waking up sweating
To the sounds of 3 A.M. trains
Rolling in on greasy tracks
Spreading across your innocence
Like melting butter on a hot tortilla

Your gold tooth mouth of prominence has gone silent
Under the weight of rusted steel and faded brick
Where cash registers on sang like Christmas chimes
On you black heeled streets bleed tattooed backs
In blue-ink penance for your soul
Proud, Puro Barelas~13

Your chapped dusty sidewalks kissing the calloused souls
Of homeless saints rising out of trash bins
In the red eyed dawn
Are fed by the black vein freeways
Dripping diseased America into your dirt alley dreams

Your complaints become rheumatoid groans
Of aching feet sliding across linoleum floors
Towards clock radios weeping Mexican ballads
Into the trumpet gold haze of memories
Too strong to stick or sink into the Río Grande mud

Me llamo Manuel Leyba but they call me manual labor

Behind the soot-screen windows and padlocked doors
of the Red Ball Café
Sit chrome and metal flake countertops
Frozen in the chewy silence of a Catholic Sunday ringing sad
A billion more still yearn to be served

And pickup trucks once danced
into the Royal Fork Restaurant parking lot
from Gallup and Farmington
Slipping through the honeydew sweetness
of ripening September

Oh earth goddess of asphalt and grime
Let me hear your hearty laugh
Flapping heavy
Like El Cambio’s storefront window adds
That fill my salty visions
With sweet-roll promises
Crumbling onto the dry tongue
Of my worn-out shoes

Levi Romero
(In the Gathering of Silence, WestEnd Press)

Interview with Mary Oishi

Full disclosure! I asked Mary Oishi to do an interview with the blog just a few days before the announcement was made–she is Albuquerque’s next Poet Laureate! I could claim to be psychic, but I’m not. I’ve just followed and admired her work for many years. 

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

There are two distinctly different poetic lines in my poetry, depending whether I am writing a poem filtered through my Japanese ancestral DNA, or through the many hours each week of my early life spent in a Pilgrim Holiness Church, with the cadences of a “holy roller” preacher and the lofty old English of the King James Version. If the former, the lines are stark lines or perhaps simple brush strokes that require the readers’ or listeners’ participation to identify the emotion and fill in the details with the people and experiences of their own lives. If the latter, the lines have a musical cadence, building somewhat hypnotically into a trancelike song. An example: “women when we rise” (Spirit Birds They Told Me, West End Press, 2011).

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

The first connection between my body and writing is that I always write poetry with a pen and paper, never on a computer. I have boxes and shelves of poems in their original forms, most written in blank books or sketchbooks, because I love the freedom of no lines. Often in the course of writing the poem, I scratch out words, phrases, or whole stanzas and scribble new words above, below, or curving into the margin space. It feels like a connection to the lineage of ancient writers. And since I’m left-handed, the heel of my hand is usually blue by the time I’m done. But it’s well worth it. Writing with a pen on a completely blank page is completely grounding, yet creatively liberating.

The ongoing connection between writing and my body is when I read or “perform” the poetry. Although I had my first poem published when I was 13 in Read (a national magazine for high school English students) mostly I considered my poems to be soliloquys that needed my voice to animate them in front of a live audience. Since publication of a chapbook and two collections, plus many individual poems, I still love what happens organically when I read poetry in person. I love to lift both hands like an invitation when I say the last line, “when women, women, rise!” or do a few dance steps at the end of another poem when I say, “you should have died, but here you are, still here, still here, still dancing.”

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

I have heard other more formally-trained poets scoff at this idea. But for me, to be a poet is to be a mystic, not necessarily as intentional study but just by allowing the mystery to flow through. I once audited a graduate class in poetry. The instructor said, “A poem is never done. It’s just given up on.” I can’t relate to that at all. Most times it feels like the poetry comes through like a new life through the birth canal. Yes, it has elements of me in it, but it has a life of its own that came from beyond me. That’s honestly how it feels. I may read it 86 times over once it spills out, clip the cord, and wash the extraneous away to get it down to its clear essence. But the building it cell by cell—that’s already done in the womb of poetry that I hold within me—where it grew its shape and most of its attributes until it was ready to come out. How can I dislike anything about that? It’s a precious gift and for me, one of the greatest joys of being human.

However, I have at times lamented how seldom a production/profit-driven society recognizes the role and value of its poets. Thankfully New Mexico, perhaps owing to its Latin American origin, seems to esteem its poets. I am grateful to be here.

4. How has the pandemic been affecting your creativity?

At first, I wrote with the starkness of haiku, or just a brief stanza. It seemed best suited to capture the solitude, my longing to be around other human beings—especially my daughter and my closest friends. The very first one:

we must stay apart

now when we need each other

most, shelves bare of touch

But as the isolation went on, from weeks to months, I became more acclimated to it. The poems came more as responses to outside stimuli, like hearing the taps being played at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base, or reading the news that we crossed the milestone of 100,000 deaths, or a Facebook post with pictures of Albuquerque’s deserted and boarded-up downtown, or facing another holiday eve knowing there would be none of the usual social rituals the next day. In the midst of this long stretch of solitude, getting the news that I was to be named the next Poet Laureate of Albuquerque jolted me into the reality that I would suddenly be forced into the public eye from the long near-hermitage to which I had grown accustomed. That prompted a flurry of poetry—so far only a portion of which I have shared. I hope the inspiration continues through and well past the pandemic, and I certainly hope there is the ability to share more of its gifts—along with other poets similarly inspired—in many public performances before the end of my two-year tenure.



are you out there in the stealth night on the edge of blue?   listening.
are you loving me for sending you this fix of heartbreak
slid down metal, taut and wound. electric. are you?
are you dancing with the spirits of those who left us
forty fifty sixty eighty years ago? dancing. in a jukejoint.
in R.L.’s living room. are you in the field picking cotton in the broiling sun?
wishing for shade. any shade. a toothpick. anything.
can you feel it? the sweat. the thirst. blur between slave and sharecropper.
slave and chain gang. can you? are you out there in the stealth night?  listening.
understanding. coming closer in. becoming. blues surging through?

Mary Oishi was named Albuquerque Poet Laureate on July 1, 2020. A familiar figure in New Mexico’s thriving poetry scene, Oishi is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me (West End Press, 2011), and co-author with her daughter, Aja Oishi, of Rock Paper Scissors (Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2018), finalist for the New Mexico Arizona Book Award. She is one of twelve U.S. poets in translation in 12 Poetas: Antologia De Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses (La Herrata Feliz and MarEsCierto, 2017), a project of the Mexican Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology, and numerous other print and digital publications.

Oishi worked professionally and as an on-air personality in public radio for 25 years, hosting blues shows at four radio stations in New Mexico and Colorado, currently at KSFR-FM Santa Fe, where she hosts a weekly blues show, Wang Dang Doodle.

Her involvement in the work of community and social justice is life-long. She served as lead facilitator for an LGBTQ youth group for seventeen years, produced Peace Buzz, an event of art-as-protest in 2003, and was an NGO delegate to the UN World Conference Against Racism in 2001

Jane Brody on Breathing

The Breath Lesson
Miriam Sagan

Color the lungs blue
Because breath
Is a blue ribbon unraveling
From sky to mouth.
This is the lesson of breath:
The meaning of counting to ten
Before touch. Breathless.

I found the article below a welcome reprieve from the continuous refrain of “just put on a mask.” In fact, I am going to get some breath lessons from a professional later this week! As a person with one working lung, I often use breathing techniques–alternate nostril, full exhalation, three part breath, and even Lamaze to create a breath I can be in sync with.
It’s always good to be reminded again that inspiration means to bring air into the body.

Jane Brody: “Doctors who study breathing say that the vast majority of Americans do it inadequately,” James Nestor, author of a new book, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. “How we breathe matters,” he said, “and our attention to it is long overdue.”

For example, Mr. Nestor noted, “nose breathing is better than mouth breathing” because it’s protective; the nose filters, heats and treats raw air. “Inhaling through the nose stimulates the release of hormones and nitric oxide, which helps to regulate vital functions like blood pressure and increase oxygenation throughout the body,” Mr. Nestor said in an email.

Given that most of us take about 25,000 breaths a day and breathing properly is critical to how well our bodies function, we should try to get the most benefit we can from this life-sustaining activity, with or without a mask.