St. Death

St. Death

Santa Muerte is not enclosed
behind the grill
of a roadside shrine on the border

but like a descansos
might be
anywhere, everywhere, a corner

even in the automatic
thumbed cross
of gangsters’ mouths

or those who die
with chapped prayers on their lips
or those who curse

saying: fuck this
or those tethered
to the morphine drip

a calavera
printed on a scarf, socks
a sugar cookie

I think of you—
and you—and you
the increasing crew

of my beloved
half-remembered dead
and lean on my cane

on the snowy path
in the Chiricahuas
and think about nothing but

lichen on rock
and time’s lovely
gnarled driftwood.





Patagonia, AZ

When You Died by Martin Willitts Jr.

When You Died

Although you were dead after ten days,
you went to the church not far from your farm.
Although not Christian, you knelt in the pew.
The one with red plush carpet to protect
old knees from feeling Penance. You prayed
like a bowl needing to empty its self.
You could hear the wagon nearing. The one
drawn by horses you could not see.
You were praying like falling apples
and a goat was nibbling the worst of them.

Although you could not see the horses,
you could tell how their hooves
clicked on the groves of the ground
following the same trail it always had
with the same purpose
of sending its contents to a final resting place
where death had no control anymore.
You could hear the small colt alongside
its mother, following instinct, like farming
the same crops and falling into more debt.
You could hear inside the wagon,
your own coffin shifting side to side.
It was then you had a type of belief.

How This Poem About Death Got A Title

I woke up the day before my sixtieth birthday thinking about death–nothing particular about that–it probably happens about twice a week.
We were at Pagosa Springs and went for an incredible soak–the pools were deserted. I sat under a folded blue umbrella, and wrote:

I packed for my death as for a day at the beach
towel, hat, apple, book
it has become easier to travel lightly
like a child who runs away
eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
and returns, having seen
a creek for the first time
without anyone’s mother

life, you’ve burdened me
and in return
I’m sure I’ve gotten on your nerves as well
now you’ll have to get along without me
as you’ve done so nicely eon after eon

I’m going to meet what once was my death
at a fern bar on upper Polk Street
and after a few drinks
see if you will have me back
after all, you loved me once–
I have the scar to prove it.


But I needed a title. Tried something pretentious and derivative, like “I Am The Death of Orpheus.” Nix.
Suddenly my husband Rich came around the corner and flirtatiously asked, “waiting for someone?’ I sort of shrieked, “no! no!” and had to read him the poem.
Which is now titled: “Waiting for Someone?”

Sari Notebook Haibun

I was tidying up my stack of blank notebooks when I came upon a small one that had been written in. It was bound, charmingly, in used sari silk–orange and gold.
My nieces must have been visiting, for we’d gone up to Ojo Caliente:

hotspring QUIET ZONE
the little girl
goes on chatting…

As always, when writing a bunch of haiku, I was thinking about my old friend Elizabeth Lamb, and her poetry. Also, something else we had in common:

how I miss her
reading the last
Harry Potter book

the postcard
I can no longer send
address unknown

This little book also took me back to the time when my daughter was a teen-ager and her friend, my unofficial foster daughter, also lived with us from time to time.

midnight loud crickets
still no sound
of the key in the lock

It wasn’t the easiest time.

the sick cat
cuddles up to
the budding apricot

Interestingly, when the cat who was “mine” died the little tuxedo cat who belonged to everyone else in the household bonded with me.

in my window
the cat
wants to chat

And the kids did come home, although in their own time frame.

using cellphones
as flashlights
they sneak back in

10 Little Death Poems by Miriam Sagan

Joan Logghe, Renee Gregorio and I are working on a joint book for Tres Chicas–GREATEST HITS: LOVE & DEATH. This is essentially a selected, spanning more than 25 years, with a lot of overlap between us. Renee had a good idea, that we each write a death poem. Mine below.

Ten Little Death Poems

I wanted to go
where I said
I would never go–
behind the rainy laurel hedge

to be born
or to die–
either way,
you know
I’ll complain

in the run-down neighborhood
full of blown roses
i couldn’t decide
how I felt
about this world

waking after sleep
I’m often surprised
by my feet
on the wooden floorboards

you don’t have to sleep
to be awakened
by the crow’s gutteral caw

I was fifty
before I discovered
my opinion
barely mattered

when the bell rings
the monk
puts on her flip-flops
shuffles down the corridor
to the meditation hall

mother stumbles
towards the crying baby
the firefighter
reaches for a jacket
the cop for a cell phone

the EMT
promises herself
a cup of coffee
when this is over

I realized that if the plane crashed
I wouldn’t have to get off
and take care of anybody–
I began to relax in the cloud cover
over a coastal city

and once you’ve had a taste
of dissolve
it is hard
not to long for more

every country
has its exit visa

a bridgeless river
might just be a river