I Came Close to Getting Into A Fight On Facebook

An acquaintance posted something about elections that was at odds with the politics of their cohort. Well, the hysterical outpouring of response couldn’t have been greater than if the person in question was threatening kittens, throwing chocolate truffles out the window, or letting a baby play with power tools. This person was wrong wrong wrong.
What strikes me is not the topic, but the impulse to social control. Full disclosure–I don’t care deeply about electoral politics and am a reluctant if dutiful voter. I’m of the power corrupts school of thought, and I can’t really believe that most of our elected officials are ethical in the sense that I’d recognize in daily life. Also, I really try to not allow events beyond my control to dominate my personal actions and pursuit of happiness.
So if you say you might not vote in a particular election I regarded it the way I do folks who say they never volunteer or give philanthropy. I don’t think it is the greatest good, but I assume you have your reasons. Which you are more than entitled to. I’m not against the social contract–please drive the speed limit and get vaccinated (actually both these things might save your own life) but I’m not going to get hysterical if your notion of how to live differs from mine.
The inability to accept views we disagree with is pandemic–and not part of any solution. The idea that certain things are EVIL and that all right minded people agree on a course of action is kind of…fundamentalist…medieval…fanatical…I doubt anyone is going to really argue with me, until I link to Facebook, but thank you for reading!

Abuela Report: The Angel of Forgetting by Miriam Sagan

I missed the baby when I was gone the past two weeks. I dreamed she could talk, and was explaining the difference between Donald Trump and Donald Duck. (The first makes us sad, the second happy). What a S-M-A-R-T baby, I spelled, not wanting to overpraise her. “Oh, it’s nothing,” a mean woman said in the dream. “All babies can do that.”
I got a chuckle when I woke up. The baby’s mother, Isabel, is worried the baby thinks her name is “the baby” and we need to use her given name, Grainne, more. When I read her “Good Dog Carl” in the board version she gets very excited to hear the words “dog” and “baby” together. She babbles a lot on English right now, but doesn’t really put syllables to objects.
When Iz and her friend Reuben finally learned to talk I interviewed them.
“Where were you before you were born?” I asked.
“It was dark,” Reuben said.
“I came out and it snowed on my head,” Iz reported.
Accurate enough, but hardly the esoteric info I was hoping for.
Jewish mystics believe the soul knows all of Torah. But in the womb the angel of forgetting puts a finger between the nose and the upper lip. (You can note that runnel on your own face).
And we have to learn again.

My First Creative Moment by Karla Linn Merrifield

My First Creative Moment
by Karla Linn Merrifield

Many, many moons ago—in 1967—my brother inspired my first poem, a short one of two stanzas that lamented our relationship: “I love him much/he loved me one,” went one line. I copied the poem out of my diary and onto a scrap of notepaper, which I passed the next day to my boyfriend Victor during English class. Our teacher, the wonderfully engaging but draconian man named Dennis McGuire, spied my surreptitious action, swooped down the aisle and snatched the note before it reached its destination in Victor’s hands. Without further ado, Mr. McGuire tucked the poem into his planner. I expected punishment. A special report on Ivanhoe? Writing “I will not pass notes in class” a hundred times? A conference with my parents? But, no punishment came. Whew! I guess the embarrassment was enough in my teacher’s eyes.

But the poem didn’t languish. Several months later, the junior/senior high school literary magazine appeared, and there between the covers was my poem! Mr. Maguire had submitted it on my behalf and suddenly I was a published poet! What a thrill to see my words—and my name—in print. And classmates were stopping me in the hallways to congratulate me and rain kudos upon me!

I never looked back. To become a poet was my destiny and it remains so these fifty-three years and 800+ published poems later. I’m still striving to live up to the man who saw in me a potential I had no idea I possessed even though he’s been gone from this Earth for two decades. His wonder never ceases.

Stash

I’m working on a new memoir with some difficult material. I’m puttig bits of it in “stash” boxes and hiding them in plain sight in this funky art town. It’s a bit of guerilla art, but also an editing process to see how I feel.

Here is a bit of the text:

The habit I can’t break—probably don’t even want to—is that I am amazed by everything in my world and afraid of all the adults in it. It’s going to be difficult to work this one out.

Ariel Gore interviews me about Bluebeard’s Castle

Ariel Gore asked me some questions about writing Bluebeard’s Castle for her experimental story structure students.

AG:
Which came first in this project . . . structure or content?
Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
Or did you have a structural idea and then write the content to fit that concept?
Or something else?
I guess the question is how and at what juncture(s) did you stop and map it out?

MS:
Somewhat paradoxically, Bluebeard began by my writing about my illness and hospitalization. I was really trying to write about it once and for all. I even went to Boston and did a series of private rituals for soul retrieval. But I kept being haunted by the fact that my father blamed me–and not just for that. That created a bridge to the Grand Canyon material–which set up a relationship to the Southwest, my home as an adult. At about this point I realized I had something. I also had a few flash memoirs, like the 9/11 piece. I started to fill in the holes–the most interesting was the family history of my grand-father, the garment industry, etc. Many of the poems were already written but uncollected–Firebird, Cossacks…sort of obsessional material. Then I did my father’s decline and death, soon after it happened, linked to Icelandic poems. So the three central sections were written in order. The “Psyche” poems had been written as a suite a few years before, and are a contrast–introspective, female, mythic.

So, basically yes–Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
I was about half way through before controlling the structure. I worked the whole book the way I would a single hybrid piece–listening for musicality and contrast, controlling repetition, leaving some holes for ambiguity.

Things I Am Not Doing by Miriam Sagan

1. Grading
2. Following the impeachment
3. Trying to improve myself
4. Sending holiday cards
5. Keeping the basil plant alive
6. Believing the human race is improving

Things I am doing
1. Reading War and Peace
2. Allowing myself to miss my parents
3. Not mentioning art history to my baby grand-daughter when she says Dada
4. Waiting for you to serve the lentil soup
5. Cracking myself up
6. Dreaming

Time Peace

I recently heard someone make the interesting observation that she was writing out the arc of her life on a big sheet of paper. When I was in residence with the Center for Land Use Interpretation I did the same. In fact I blogged this many years ago when it was in process. Finished, it was published in my memoir GEOGRAPHIC from Casa de Snapdragon Press.
Looking at it today, I realize these are experiences that meant I would never feel the United States of America was a benign liberal place designed for my happiness and security.

Time Peace

April 27, 1954

I am born, by natural childbirth, in Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. My mother delivers me a little after 3 p.m., after the nurse’s shift changes. They are loath to go because they have never seen natural childbirth before.
I am born into a world marked forever by Auschwitz and Hiroshima. Strange how innocent place names can come to speak of universal horror. I am born in upper Manhattan. For my entire life, my dreams will have NY City street signs in them. I will always know the cardinal directions in my dreams.

Manhattan Project, 1942-1946

Robert Oppenheimer and other physicists develop the atom bomb in a remote location in New Mexico–Los Alamos. It is tested in southern New Mexico, in the Jornado del Muerto. As an adult, I visit the Trinity Test Site on one of the two days of the year it is open and buy myself a lavender T-shirt with a blue mushroom cloud on it.
I wear it out.

Cuban Missile Crisis. October, 1962

Our third grade teacher, Mrs. Harvey, is no-nonsense and British. We know she survived the London blitz. She pulls down a map of the world from the blackboard at the front of the class and shows us that Russia practically touches Alaska. They have always been right next door and able to bomb us. For some reason, this banishes my fear.

August 6, 1945

The atom bomb “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima by the U.S. On August 9, “Fat Man” is detonated over Nagasaki.

November 22, 1963

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. I am in the fourth grade and miss Mrs. Harvey with her great accent.
This may be the first time I realize my family is different than others. The next school day many kids say they saw their fathers cry. My father did not cry, but he did drink a beer in the daytime while watching television–very unusual behavior.
Years later I learned that Fidel Castro remarked–who is this man Johnson and can he handle the CIA?
My father seemed to be asking some sort of similar question.

Autumn, 1905, Russia

A general strike is called throughout the Tsarist Russia–a revolution, really. My grandfather Avrum, who is a short skinny teenager, is lifted up by other men so he can pull the whistle which signals the start of the local protest.

April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Assassination

The house next to us, which is abandoned, burns. It is a vast house with turrets and follies–we call it the pink castle. My parents are away, and my grandfather Avrum and I sit up all night together watching the firemen and keeping an eye so that the strand of copper beeches between us and the conflagration don’t catch fire.

November 7, 1867

Madame Sklodowska Curie, discoverer of radium, is born. I read her biography, along with those of Harriet Tub-man and Joan of Arc. I will never do what any of them do, but as a girl in the 1950s I take my heroines where I can find them.

November, 1984
I move to Santa Fe, New Mexico a few days after Ronald Reagan wins the election and am amazed to see the lights of Los Alamos twinkling in the northwest. It is as if I did not know it was a real place.

Tisha B’Av, 1492. Jews expelled from Spain

This date, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the least auspicious one on the Hebrew calendar.
The Jews are expelled from Spain, leaving my family with a taste for flamenco and me with the desire to just keep driving south into Mexico.

August 19-21, 1991. Fall of Soviet Union

The coup against Michael Gorbachev fails. During the two days of the attempt, my parents are huddled in the basement of their beach house because a hurricane is devastating the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Periodically my father braves the wind and threat of broken glass to run up the stairs to the kitchen where he can get good radio reception to find out what is happening in Russia.

9th of Av, 70 A.C.E.

The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is commemorated by the Romans on a triumphal arch, still
in Rome. The arch of Titus shows the plundered menorah carried off by soldiers. The start of the Jewish diaspora.

November, 2010. Wendover, Utah
Desert dawn, azure sky. Venus hangs over the guard tower. The lights of the casinos blink reflected in the windows of the Enola Gay hangar. I drink a cup of coffee by myself.