Say Good-bye To Something by Isabel Winson-Sagan & Miriam Sagan

Say Goodbye to Something

Goodbye to the self that I never really was, to my false future, to dreams unmet that were replaced with better dreams. You were great dreams and schemes and plans while you lasted- I was going to go to grad school, get a Scottish boyfriend, and be lonely and miserable far from home. I was going to go to Black Mesa and herd sheep and be in a lot of pain from sleeping on the ground. I was going to be an academic, isolated in an office, moving every year, mildly unfulfilled. Thank you, imperfect and flawed dreams of mine, that were replaced with healthier alternatives. Thank you for your sacrifice, alternative timelines. And good-bye for now, until you surface again in thought, reminding me of how much better off I am without you.



say good-bye
to my inheritance
to wanting something
money, love, approval,
a glass honey jar
shaped like a hive
it made me feel close
first child of my mother and father
to be promised
“you can have this when I die”

thank you, grandpa George—
we used to say that
paying the bill
at the nice Chinese restaurant;
he’d left us all money
and we spent every penny
even when the tax accountant
yelled at me
from Miami
for being a hippie

and so I’ll say
ciao, adios, I hope
we don’t meet again

I now possess
all I’ll ever inherit:
fear, a crooked smile, a fedora
what my father called
“the Yankee dollar”
what now seems just a breeze
in the evening
from land to sea.


Devon Miller-Duggan Turns 64 and Reflects on That and More

This Week

I turned 64. I like that I have now reached the age when I don’t have to ask my husband “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me when I’m 64?” mostly because I have a year in which I’m a line in a Beatles song. I’m not sure why that amuses me so much, but it does, and I’m not inclined to expend much energy figuring it out. Maybe one of these days, we’ll rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight. If it’s not too dear…

I saw a list on line the other day of Beatles songs John Lennon didn’t like. A handful of my favorites are on the list. Either I have given up on being edgy/with-it, or it’s possible that Lennon and I don’t have to agree. I have friends who know and like my poems who are fondest of poems I think are mediocre, and I know for certain that I have given up fretting about this. Anything I can manage to give up fretting about is a good thing.

And my husband did feed me, in fact. I bought the steaks and peas and potatoes and Boursin (for the potatoes), but he cooked. And, besides, I was doing the weekly grocery shopping for my mother, so I had time to noodle around in the store thinking about whether I wanted steak or king crab. He likes to cook more than I do these days, and he got everything done perfectly.

I don’t particularly like it when my birthday coincides with Mother’s Day. I have mixed feelings about both, and having them happen together just seems like too much to process in one day. So I did the morning routine for my mother (tough to schedule an aide on the holiday), went to church, probably let myself get talked into helping with an internet book club set up between young South African women and young American women, shopped for my mother (who was aware neither of my birthday, nor of Mother’s Day, which was okay with me) took a nap, did some submissions stuff, played Words with Friends, and spent the rest of the day either crocheting or eating and watching TV with my husband. The highlight of the day was probably when I told my 18-month-old-grand-daughter I loved her and she came over and kissed me (a first—she’s plenty affectionate, but this sort of specificity is new, and she chirps/sings as she walks, which is pretty wonderful to live with).

It’s been a complicated semester. I had a kidney stone early on and have never quite felt like I’ve gotten my feet under me. I’m teaching a new course—typically, I came up with a nifty idea about doing imitations of a bunch of poets, but only semi thought it through—this is one of the parts where being an experiential learner doesn’t always work out for the best. The course will be better next time I teach it, but seems to have not been a disaster, as nearly as I can tell, this time ‘round. My other two classes had big, tough issues I’ve never dealt with before, neither of which should go in a blog–one a headbanger, one a heartbreaker. And I lost 30-40 hours at the beginning of the semester to a new Faculty Evaluation System put in place at Pretty Good U that is a total POS (it has, for instance, gone down in the middle of contract renewal system, of course). And I’m pretty ticked that I am going to start having an actual attendance policy in classes (I’ve done quite nicely for years with one that consisted of “You expect me to be here, don’t you? I expect the same.”), but absences have gotten way out of hand. I blame the zeitgeist. Meanwhile, my mother’s slide downward has picked up speed—she’s almost out of language, and has begun to be seriously short of breath. And I have been trying to get her whole home-health-aide situation re-settled since the week between Xmas and New Year’s, when we found out that the coordinating insurer had pulled out of the market, and the new one won’t deal with Home Instead. In the northern of Delaware’s 3 counties. Just the one. Meanwhile, I am trying to coordinate between 4 companies/agencies. Much of this would be resolved by paying home-health-aides living wages, but they’re all for-profit companies, so…

The yard’s a mess, though it’s full of flowers. It’s been a weird, long, cold spring, so some things hung on forever. I’ve never had daffodils still blooming when irises came up. It was pretty. The stripey pale pink azalea has been in bloom for ages. But it got stinky hot just in time to fry the lilacs the day after they bloomed. I haven’t walked the back yard for several weeks. I’m betting there’s some poison ivy out there somewhere. And I think I’ve decided to forgo the fancy wood play-set-with-house-and-climbing-wall that seems to be the suburban standard in favor of an old-fashioned swing set. But the poison ivy will have to be dealt with first.

Our cello prof tends to favor 20th/21st c. music, so I don’t often go hear him (I’m fond of some, especially of the elegiac sort, but often feel like I’m wearing uncomfortable underwear when listening to much of it), but he did a 2-night recital of Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites several weeks back. It was imperfect and glorious and made me so goofily happy that I email fan-girl-ed him. We’re going to try to have coffee. There’s much too little cross-departmental conversation around here, just because depts. are so big and we’re all so separate, so that’s kind of nice.

Last day of class tomorrow. Mostly, my students will be reciting the poems they’ve chosen to memorize. That’s nice, too. And it’s looking like I’ll survive to teach another semester. The summer’s big projects include reading all the books of poetry I haven’t gotten to all year and re-organizing the bookshelves. Could definitely be worse, which, these days, is saying a lot.

This Week: Some Moments in Time

This Week

Rich brought me a rose. We’d met up at our seats to see the simulcast opera. He’d just come from working a fundraising event, and filched the red rose from a table setting to save it from being thrown out. I put it in my purse. All evening I felt special. My husband gave me a rose.

We went to Costco. Albuquerque was too hot already. We got a good deal deal on discount coupons and went to Yannis, my favorite. Campus was deserted. The city had that slightly sad quality of loneliness, mixed in with its usual pleasant bustle. We sat on the patio. I drank a glass of retsina and thought about how I’d rather drink a glass of peasant wine than fancy. I think I don’t care about wine, but this tasted like that late afternoon—faintly bitter. I could feel the world spinning around as if I were at the center.

A friend was looking at my back garden. He’d said no, he’d just had lunch, no need for a snack. He reached out and pulled one small leaf off the glorious hanging nasturtium. And ate it. I didn’t ask, but I know it tasted fresh and peppery. I’d been meaning to add them to salad, and his spontaneous gesture reminded me.

More orange things appear in the back yard. An orange cat eats a mourning dove, fights with another cat, and digs in my flower bed. I go out to scold the cat. But I end up petting him, saying how beautiful he is, praising him from growing up from a kitten. He wears a little collar, but we seem to be in his turf, too.

I have been reading the collected Czeslaw Milosz for almost a year and a half. Or pretending to read it. It sits in the pile and I skip over the poems in search of more narrative. I’ve read well over a hundred books instead of finishing it. I am now on page 566. It says: “I describe this for I have learned to doubt philosophy/And the visible world is all that remains.”

Privacy–Is Google or Facebook Hogging The Bathroom?

I grew up in a fairly large ethnic household without much privacy. And in the last thirty years, I have always had to share a bathroom with 1-3 other people. So privacy is an issue for me. My younger siblings used to ransack my room, searching for contraband. I finally got a way to lock my bedroom door from the outside–and happily I wasn’t sharing a bedroom.
My first husband–may he rest in peace–used to read my diaries and journals. My current husband Rich lived for many years in a commune, and is relaxed about sharing space–sometimes a little too relaxed.
I’m territorial, and you might be too if your sibs looked for your secrets and cigarettes and your spouse read your old love letters.
Also, my mother was big on…commenting. Or criticizing–my hair, my body, my clothes, my friends, my choice of reading, my taste, my beliefs, my hopes, my fears, etc. And that created a lack of privacy. If the expression on your face is fair game for feedback, then the privacy of one’s own thoughts becomes important.
Of course, as a writer, I walk the fine line of confession and controlled self-revelation. As a rule, the reader sees what I want the reader too. (Except for the very astute reader, who can observe unconscious motivation). For example, there is a lot I’m not telling you about my mother here–and I’m not going to tell you. So there is still an element of my maintaining my privacy.
Much of the world lives with very little physical privacy. Millions of people live entire lives without what the 1st World considers basic privacy for biological functions. So I know that as a person who needs privacy, I’m pretty lucky to have some. Virginia Woolf wrote famously about a Room of One’s Own, and although I agree I know Jane Austen wrote in company and I doubt Sappho, who was running a school and raising a daughter, had much splendid isolation.
Which brings me to the issue at hand, social media and loss of “privacy.” I’ve kept the issue at bay by not using a cell phone. I’m roundly criticized by friends and family for this, but right now I’m quite content. The truth is–Goggle has no idea where I am. Ok–I’ll tell you. I’m headed to the bathroom–alone.

My Greatest Fear by Holly Baldwin

my greatest fear…

that I am unlovable.

the throat clenching gasp that who i am may never feel enough, as if i am an unglazed, clay vase that cannot hold enough water to quench the flowers, freshly cut and thirsty, because so much evaporates into the sunset.

the creeping dread that who i feel i am is not how you see me. that my strength is invisible and unwanted, that the passion that dwells below the surface, pulsing and radiating, goes ignored.

or i go beyond enough. too much. too vocal, too direct, too honest, too focused. feeling that i must dial myself back, make myself smaller for the comfort of others, shrinking the best parts of me so that i will not seem like more than what they can manage.

this vibrancy of my being, the range of my mind, the sea of all that is mine and beautiful is not a place where people feel they can swim without drowning.

the angst that despite all that i encompass, all the beauty I know flourishes, i will feel empty without the reflection of myself in the eyes of another to feel complete.

the scars of two divorces i cannot erase, hanging in the ethos, haunting…the ghosts of failure circling, longing for company.

Holly Baldwin wrote this in response to a creativity prompt from Twyla Tharp in my Memoir class, and has graciously allowed me to re-blog. Follow her at–

What Makes You Happy?

I was recently talking to someone who claimed to have been happy only six times. This person listed life changing events like a wedding as the only happiness inducing events. Of course I wanted to quarrel with this. Major milestones may by definition be few and far between. But these are not really moments of happiness. Or, not the only moments.
I tend to be happy about six times a minute–and unhappy too. I’ve grown to understand my nature as mercurial—and I am easily pleased.
“You get a lot out of a little,” my friend Kath observed when we were in Iceland. She was commenting on my enthusiasm for a pot of chives in the alley between our apartment and the convenience store. I just loved that pot of chives, blooming away in the long Arctic days. I loved the charmingly Icelandic store, too, with its salted fish and knitting supplies. Of course I loved the volcanoes and the black sand beaches. But I do love the small detail.
My father, may he rest in peace, was a high energy and focused traveller. But he cared only for major monuments—cultural icons. I remember being a sullen teenager in a foreign capital, dragged from cathedral to cathedral. I saw a little cafe, with yes, an alley behind it, and a grey cat cleaning its paws. All I wanted to do was buy myself a hot drink and sit at a round table and watch the world. But alas, this was not on my father’s agenda.
I did grow up, however. And set my own pace. When I was an artist in residence in the Everglades I’d drive down to the end of the park (where there wasn’t much, post hurricane) and buy a bad cup of coffee at the bait shop and sit on the dock. I was rewarded by numerous crocodile sightings—those scary shy reptiles that like brackish water. And I was rewarded by very little, just that moment.

I’m Still Alive

I’m still alive,
unlike several
people in my stories,
those I loved
or half loved,
and I’m at the intersection
of Juanita Street
and Paseo
yellow leaves blowing
as the keyboard intro
to “Super Freak”
comes on the car radio,
and for one moment
I have the intense
although possibly misguided
that this
is the greatest song
ever written,
and for that
one moment
it’s true,
because who doesn’t love
the kind of girl
you read about—
and then it all floods in
all the other songs
I love
and also believe
to be the greatest song
ever written,
and I wonder
who the fuck am I?
and really
I don’t know.