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.

Midrash Writing Prompt by Miriam Sagan & Isabel Winson-Sagan

Describe the setting of a narrative as a short poem, but include no people or storytelling. In this case, it was Genesis 31, where a pillar and mound are set up in the desert as a contract. Every time I read the passage I see the Navajo Res in my mind’s eye, or even just the Galisteo Basin.

smell of sage
tarantula elegantly
climbing out of a hole
left by something else
a long gone rabbit, God’s hand


The Mound & The Pillar

Stones stacked on top of stones
stark against a blue sky
it smells like dust and livestock,
like the desert smells after a long journey
is it a boundary line, a covenant,
or the way back?


FAQ’s About Miriam’s Well

FAQ’s About This Blog

1. What is the meaning of the name Miriam’s Well?
It comes from Midrash, or Biblical commentary. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, a well of water appeared each evening wherever they made camp. It was associated with the prophetess Miriam, and disappeared with her death. It was an endless source of refreshment.
Of course, my name is also Miriam!

2. What is the mission of the blog?
Basically to publish poetry (mine and yours) and to follow the creative process where it leads. The focus is on writing and art from Santa Fe–but I also welcome work from beyond. I’m blogging about my forays into land art and about various travels, often in search of inspiration.

3. Why Baba Yaga and Patti Smith as two themes?
Well, they are my heroines. Baba Yaga is a scary Slavic witch–but admirable for her compact “green” house on chicken legs. Patti Smith isn’t the only great rock and roller to emerge from my home state of New Jersey, but she was a beacon for many writers of my generation.

4. Who are the contributors? And how can I get interviewed?
I’m entering my fortieth year as a small press publisher (started with an underground magazine in high school) where I published my friends. I still do–particularly as many are very accomplished and well known writers (or about to be!). The blog publishes a lot of student work, and a lot of work contributed by those just passing by. I publish much of what is submitted. Please send me
To get interviewed–if you are a poet with a book, drop me a note.

5. Has all this blogging cut into your writing time?
Weirdly not. I’m writing poems at my usual rate and working on numerous projects–books and text installations. I recently reviewed the blog and in about 10 months worth there was only one prose entry that wanted to be a poem.The blog seems to give me more energy than it takes…then again, maybe I’ve just cut down on housework. Things do look a little dusty.