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

MS

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?

IWS

Haunted by Japan: Photographs by Gail Rieke and Poems by Miriam Sagan

Certain experiences are so productive creatively that they continue on. Gail Rieke has been to Japan numerous times, and I only once. But we both visited this year, and I had the good fortune to talk to her before and after our trips. I’m combining our work below–not from the same exact places but I think from a deep ethos.

if there is a kami of sadness
she worshipped too long
at that shrine

hung books from wires
that could never
be read

not just ephemeral paper
but pages of air

the foam of waves
marbled the bookends of sand
in suminagashi

every woman
the world over
is writing a book
of herself

made of flesh and
north wind

Wayside Shrine

tears—
I haven’t heard
the temple bell
in so long

or ever before
seen a Buddha’s shrine
on the Tokyo
business street
or deep in country
where the earthen
sides of the lanes
loom over my head

offered an orange
like the ones
on the small trees
despite the freezing weather

for a few yen
lit a stick
of incense
with my cold gloved hands

stars, worlds

this smoke
that goes nowhere
goes
everywhere


http://ridetheflyingcarpet.blogspot.com/

Childhood of A Good Person: Poem by Miriam Sagan

old fruit tree
propped on a crutch
like a legless veteran

drunk
in a doorway

on the temple grounds
line of stone buddhas
expressions
weathered out

I try
to not just be
a tourist—-offer coins
in the box
but pass the beggar
anyway

I can’t tell
if I had the childhood
of a good person
or a less good one
but please
don’t trouble yourself
too much
after all
I’ve come this far
on my own
already.

Exposure by Michael G. Smith

Exposure

Tourists photograph
boys and girls flicking
marbles in the dirt,
skipping a frayed
braided rope,
kicking flat
fùtbols in the street.
Hearts pried open,
eyes focused,
they closely circle
looking for the angle
they would never
see at home,
and from in-your-face
distances across
the wide boulevard
whose traffic
of breakneck scooters,
roofed auto-rickshaws
and walkers laden
with the day’s groceries
never stops
they shoot
a weary mother
and her children
parked on see-through
blankets, soiled hands
stuck wide open.

https://gulfstreamlitmag.com/exposure/

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.