Midrash by Miriam Sagan


In the middle of the night
I couldn’t tell the difference

between what I wanted
and what I had

between my first
and my second husband

between what I loved
and what loved me.

The neighbor keeps a light on
against burglars

although he no longer stands smoking
and his mother is long dead

behind his house
a recluse prays

in front of mine
four brothers shoot hoops

in the middle of the night
a coyote strolls across St. Francis Drive

Coyote pretends to sleep on a park bench
counting stars

I say: you can count on me
even, if in darkness,

I can’ tell
the difference

between Rachel and Leah
Jacob and the angel.
Recently published in a Canadian anthology from Black Dog & One-Eyes Press. And forthcoming in my book START AGAIN from Red Mountain Press, 2021. Some notes: Midrash is commentary, a traditional Jewish practice of deconstructing text. In contemporary terms, you can add your own experience. Because midrash is thoughtful, I think of it as a kind of antidote to my continuous knee jerk opinions about everything. Coyote is the local trickster in the American Southwest. I read Jacob, patriarch though he may be, as a similar figure.

Changed Beliefs About Judaism

When I asked the question–What beliefs did you have about yourself that have now changed?–I got only two responses in the religious/spiritual arena. Both of interest, and in tandem, below:

Danny Sagan: I used to believe that I was not that Jewish. I don’t believe that anymore.

To respond more specifically. I used to think I had a cultural background and inherited Jewish values from my parents. However I have learned more ritual over the last 20 years. We make a Seder every year. I attend the humanist service at our shul. We said Kaddish for the parents. I would have never predicted these things.

I guess the pivot point was having kids and recognizing that they wanted the rite of passage. In order to diy the Bat Mitzvah we all needed to learn more about the holidays and rituals. Some of it stuck.

Alison Luterman: I didn’t think that as a Jew I was “allowed” to rest in faith, to believe in God, to have mental peace (just been looking at that one today.) It’s not true. I can. Jews can. Spiritual peace is not just reserved for Other religions.

THE 80/20 RULE: Omer Poem by Ya’el Chaikind

THE 80/20 RULE

If I have to admit it
my life’s foundation
is built upon saying
YES, even when I’m

scared, even when
I have no idea what
I’m doing, and you
must have heard

the saying – on a wing
and a prayer – so
I’m not the only one
jumping into the

abyss, praying that
the eighty-twenty
rule applies, that
eighty percent of

the time I’ll land
safely, maybe out
of breath yet awed
by the power of

my prayers to bring
me safely to a new
place, a pretty high
scoreboard, and twenty

percent of the time,
well it’s not so pretty,
banged and bruised
against the sharp

stones along my way-
too-fast descent
when suddenly wings
appear to slow my

fall and soften the
blow of defeat, oh
hell, who am I kidding,
it’s all prayers, even
the wings.

Ya’el Chaikind
Omer Day 34:
Yesod Shebe Hod
Foundation within Awe, Humility, & Glory

This Week’s Omer Poem by Ya’el Chaikind


Life is short and love
is awaiting before
our eyes, an unlit

match full of potential
spark ready to shine
a light in the dark

dampness where fear
molders, carving its own
terrible beauty into

the walls of our heart,
yet fear only adds
volume to love’s song,

where harmonizing
opposites can ignite
an endless flame.

Ya’el Chaikind


Omer Day 15:

Chesed Shebe Tiferet

Lovingkindness within Harmony, Beauty, and Balance

Omer Poem by Ya’el Chaikind


Tell me your secrets
darkness, open
your guarded gates

and let me glimpse
behind the towering fears
and boogeymen

who haunt my daydreams,
cloud my vision
so that I might watch

my life through a lens
freed of rainbows
or the glittering sun

on a summer pond,
instead, show me how black
is the perfect

backdrop to reflect
the stars mirrored in the retina
of our souls.

Ya’el Chaikind

Omer Day 13:
Yesod Shebe Gevurah
Foundation within Strength, Boundaries, and Discernment

Counting the Omer by Ya’el Chaikind

Miriam’s Well will present this special feature weekly during this period of Counting the Omer.


Counting the Omer
by Ya’el Chaikind, MPH, MA, LMHC

The inspiration for my poetry is an ancient Jewish custom called “Counting the Omer,” where each spring you intentionally immerse in the spiritual 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, also known as a time of revelation.

Traditionally 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 would be revealed on the 50th day?

For the past five years, I have explored these questions by writing a poem each day for 49 days, without editing and within thirty minutes. It’s been a creative practice, an annual challenge to my perfectionism, and a mystical, fun, and spiritual exploration. My book, Revelations of the Heart: A 49-Day Journey of Poems and Prompts to Write Your Way to Revelation, is both a writing guide and a poetry book to help others develop their own practice. Email yaelchaikindcounseling@gmail.com for more information.


I walked past a tree buzzing
ferociously, laden with hundreds
of green buds, yet did not see

a single bee, and I stared through
a square of branched sky
hoping for a glimpse, puzzled,

because this was a Very
Loud Tree, and while I watched
and waited and wondered,

suddenly my eyes softened
and the tree erupted into focus with the flit
and flight of dozens

of yellowjackets ablaze with their loving
task, and I pondered the other
marvels I might miss when I

am blinded by my goals instead of
yielding to what is
right in front of my eyes.

Ya’el Chaikind

Omer Day 5:
Hod Shebe Chesed
Awe and Humility within Lovingkindness

Hello From Spring

It’s been a very mixed day. Last night hail arrived raucuously like a convocation of unwanted door to door salesmen. Today the clouds of apricot and peach blossoms seem untouched. Studying some torah, I just felt very sad about part of the story of our foremothers, who were essentially bought and sold. But what woman on earth can claim her ancestresses were free people?
I had lunch yesterday with two Zen Buddhist priests–women teachers. I felt a bit better about the world, because they were old friends who had found their path. There is little I enjoy more than a certain kind of intimate conversation–about what happened to everyone, who died, who lived, who failed, who triumphed. It gives me a pure and abiding sense of connection to the world. Call it gossip if you like–it is gospel to me.
My daughter Isabel and I went to Tune-Up. I ate chile rellenos. For many years I felt I had to skip them because I didn’t want to agitate my gallstones. I haven’t had an attack in almost thirty years, and I’ll eat that fried pepper now (knock wood). We worked on our renga–linked Japanese poem. We started this one very traditionally, by translating a haiku by Basho. That way neither of us had to start–the great Basho started for us.

First cherry blossom
This very moment
A good day
-Basho translation 

I’m cooking brisket for tomorrow night’s seder. My mother did not really cook, nor did her mother. So I have no traditional recipe. I use a variation of what poet Joan Logghe taught me. I’m feeling sad about several things–mostly squabbles and situations that don’t directly involve me, but impact me nonetheless. I’m very happy about other things–including that I’m re-reading Trollop and loving it. I also have a beautiful rosemary plant that came through the winter very nicely in my sunniest room.

I went to Israel and I went to the wall by Susannah Sagan

I went to Israel and I went to the wall
I got up very early and put on a dress. I felt the wall would
appreciate the gesture
I took a cab to meet a friend
I sat and waited
people watching
Sharona profiling – all the people who definitely weren’t Sharona
Finally, she shows up – breathless from walking
She goes to the Wall once a month for political reasons.
She watched women pray in America for two years – went home and said
this must change.
Winding our way through the ancient streets we come down into the wall
– 2/3rds divided
The women are there, ready, dressed in illegal prayer shawls, handing
out prayer books.
I stand with them declining the book
I stand with them and suddenly realize I’m outside
I stand with them and hear the prayers – some I know some are like
everything else – some I don’t know
I meet a woman from Ohio
I see my friend Yaffa – she’s there because prayer is part of her soul
she brings her own prayer book worn, small, fits in her hand.
As a teacher, she points out the page numbers and keeps me on track
The women start to dance – my hand is held – I feel so shy.
I don’t know why I went to the Wall
I don’t know why I love the Women of the Wall
I don’t know how I feel about God
What I do know is that if women can’t pray together at the wall how can
a woman whose had breast cancer ever feel safe.