Images by Patricia Pearce & Poem by Miriam Sagan

I love this artist’s work–here are some stellar examples from the Book Arts show in the round house.

And a poem I wrote for her some years ago as part of a Vivo Gallery collaboration.

Borrowed–Unreturned

What is in the sealed book?
Pages embalmed in wax:
Question or obsession
Taken from the vanishing lending library. Truth
Must speak, even as it leaks,
Something served
With a slotted spoon.

Secrets like an Egyptian tomb
Beneath this daily life
Not just the past
But those aphasic dreams
Where things seem
To be of equal weight
Like trying to cross a border
With a suitcase full of composting leaves
Foliage chosen for its skeletal shape,
Notes from a B flat clarinet
Low oboe and bassoon,
A sound without teeth.

These leaves must turn to topsoil
These pages to silverfish
This mirror to a mask
This thumbprint to clay cuneiform
Line of dominoes
Greasy pack of cards
Classification of seashells
Collection of raindrop fossils–

Where these things meet
They spell your fortune
Name where you dwell, the house, the street
Where you will be happy.

Las Vegas and Me by Devon Miller-Duggan

Las Vegas & Me

I think of myself as a relative badass. For a 63-year-old white bourgeois church-going grandmother with artificial knees, and a bunch of conditions that need medicating, anyway.

This week damn-near did me in. This kind of thing tends to. For a (relative) badass, I’ll admit freely that I have pretty thin skin. I’m okay with that. We (Americans/humans) like to act sometimes as though we’re supposed to not be battered by what goes on—the “Keep Calm and Carry On” thing. It’s useful to remember that that poster (now endlessly played-with meme) was never actually used in Britain during WWII. I don’t know why, but I’d like to think that someone in the propaganda office noticed that it was bloody callous.

Here’s what I did. It’s not the more general sort of Really Wise and Useful list Miriam published earlier in the week. It’s mine:

I teach two Intro to Poetry Writing classes and one Advanced this semester. I spent half of each class reading them poems about 9/11, gun violence (I found out that the website of the Academy of American poets, which lets you search by theme has a listing for “gun violence), and grief. Then I had them write for the rest of the period, using the line from Donne “Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery” as the starter/prompt. I wrote with them. I don’t know whether those 4 pages will ever get shared—I haven’t been able to look at them yet. I didn’t ask my students to share what they wrote.
One student put her hand up and said she thought I should be reading poems about change instead of poems about grief. I will admit that I said I didn’t think there would be meaningful change until the 2nd Amendment is repealed, and that I thought we might want to give the dead and the grieving at least 24 hours of grief before we moved on. God only knows what she’ll write on my evaluation at the end of the semester (she’s already, 1/3 into the semester made it clear that I irritate her). Several emailed to thank me. Other professors canceled classes (the minority) or carried on without acknowledging what had happened (the overwhelming majority, which is fine—other courses don’t have the flexibility that mine have). One student came to class not knowing what had happened, so I ended up telling her. She offered me a hug after class (yeah, I know I’m not supposed to hug them, or them me, but human…). I took it. I hugged her back.

I made 8 purple crocheted infant hats for a project to cut back on shaken baby syndrome in Oklahoma and packed them up to send, along with the 4 I already had.

I wrote a poem. Not about Las Vegas, but about the violent world.

I worried about the First Responders in Las Vegas, who are, inevitably, also wounded.

I bought The Rough Guide to Austria and a new packable coat because the husband and I are meeting my thesis director there in January.

I spent time with my grandchildren. I bought some Christmas presents for them, and made plans for a couple of things I’ll make for their stockings.

I gave more $ to Episcopal Relief & Development. They have a very high rating on Charity Navigator and are on the ground in disaster areas pretty fast. Also, I’m an Episcopalian and I like the fact that we don’t use disaster relief as a chance to evangelize.

I declined to give any $ to the Red Cross when I picked up a prescription for my mother at Walgreens. The pharmacy assistant and I agreed that the Red Cross is not very efficient or effective.

I made a cross out of computer components. I make crosses out of all sorts of weird stuff—mostly discarded jewelry—and they’re sold at a variety of venues where the profits go to support things I believe in—the Arts or helping other humans.

I made sure that my students knew that this was not the worst mass shooting in American history. It was just the worst mass shooting of white people. This does not lessen the horror, or the ferocity of my beliefs about the 2nd Amendment, but truth and context are the very least we owe the students who pass through our classes.

I finished Ta Nehisi Coates’s brilliant article in the last issue Atlantic.

I cried through Lin Manuel Miranda’s new song about Puerto Rico, “Almost Like Prayer.” Then I watched it again.

I took really good chocolate to my department meeting and handed it out to my colleagues, then I crocheted a purple baby hat during the meeting, as is my wont. I worried for a moment about becoming the dept. granny and not being taken seriously, then decided that I’m too old to give a fat fart and that I will take chocolate to all department meetings from now on, because life in public universities is a little weird these days, even if Delaware isn’t anywhere near as mucked up as Wisconsin. And my chair is a peach whose strategic genius is being pushed to the limits these days.

I guess I prayed a lot, if you count yelling at God as praying.

I spent much of Saturday submitting poems to journals. I also let my 4-year-old grand-daughter help me change the batteries in a musical toy for the baby. Somehow, this was one of the best spots of the week.

For various reasons, I have a mildly irritating week coming up. I am solidly grumpy about this, especially since it will require that I behave well and represent my department and my brain well with a visiting big-gun. Who knows, he may turn out to be a lovely human, but at the moment, I’m just fretting about not making an ass of myself. #introvertproblems

I had several nightmares, but not about Las Vegas.

I got through the week. I’m still crying. I’ll get through next week, too. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? I won’t keep calm. I will carry on. I will love the world in spite of its brokennesses.

What Is Locked: Poem by Miriam Sagan

This poem was written last March when I was a writer in residence in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Those beautiful spring days–flowering trees, mist rising from the springs–have certainly stayed with me. The national park is a true water protector. It guards the purity of the springs and their waterways, and provides this water free to all comers at several downtown locations, right out of a tap. It’s worth it to pay to soak in a bath house, but amazing that the water is free and available.

What Is Locked

1.
hidden springs grotto
with its iron grill and bolt

I Love Jesus
scratched in stone by the bench

nervous graffiti
in the nether regions of mother earth

2.
world of sleep
sealed off from morning coffee

recurring dream
of a sad city

ruined
basilica

3.
the heart

4.
mountainside
with its flight
of stone steps

I’m too crippled
to walk up

mountain laurel

5.
green earth forgotten
like a rusted key

and no one
remembers
the doors it opens

***
Now the poem has been published in the current issue of the Taos Journal of Poetry. It’s a very special issue of this excellent magazine–full of poets whose work I’ve long followed. Read it all!
http://www.taosjournalofpoetry.com/what-is-locked/
http://www.taosjournalofpoetry.com

Mexican Haiku

Christina Rascon Castro gave a wonderful presentation on this at Haiku North America. The translated haiku were a highlight.
These are from her selection of early Mexican haiku, which may present as much as very short Modernist Spanish poems as they do as haiku. Yet I get the haiku flavor as well.
I hope to post more of her presentation later.

Arturo González Cosío (Mexico City, 1930-2016)

Oculta el bosque
entre ramas y hojas
murmullos de agua.

The forest hides
among branches and leaves
murmurs of water

De Otras mutaciones del I Ching

59. Huan / La disolución

Viento sobre las aguas
boga el barquero
con la nostalgia.

Wind over the waters
searches the boat man
with nostalgia.

Enrique González Rojo (Mexico city, 1928)

Luna en el agua
Se empalaga la espuma
de albura tanta

Moon on the water
the foam gets sick
of so much whiteness

EDUARDO LIZALDE (Mexico City, 1929)
De Otros tigres

ALGUNOS HAIKAIS TIGRESCOS
(de métrica ortodoxa y no)

VI

Puede en su furia
pantera acorralada
rasgar su sombra.

In its anger can
a cornered panther
rip its shadow.

VII

Una pantera acorralada
puede en su furia
desgarrar su sombra.

A cornered panther
can in its anger
rip its shadow.

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano by Miriam Sagan

I wrote this during a visit to New Orleans, about five years after Katrina. I’m posting it here, for the Gulf in general. Also, in the strange synergy that poems sometimes have, Rosh Hashana is approaching. And my Beit Midrash group is starting up for fall–soon to be discussing Jacob wrestling.

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano

torah of morning
of noon
of dusk
of midnight
of moonrise
of daytime gibbous moon
flood water

torah of terror
of anarchy
of forgiveness
fire in the water
a dog
a child
bent street signs

torah which unrolls
the story of Noah
an ark
a dove
a raven
streets as rivers
leviathan

a house
your house
a house
caught in a tree
the army corps of engineers
a pumping station
a levee

torah of glass bottles
dangling blue glass hands
a message
SOS
hope
despair
a twisted menorah

torah of brass bands
coronets and horns
twisted shofar
blowing not air
but water
clarinet set with rubies now mute
torah of the broken flute

torah of Jacob
wrestling with the angel
who cheats to win
God’s lie, the rainbow sign
(no more water
the fire next time)
words float away

and the piano of glass
of sand, strings plucked
by fish
how the water took even
our idea of land
and in drowned sleep
spirit moved on the face of this deep.

The Electric Palm Tree by Miriam Sagan

It’s been a wonderful season for me for poetry chapbooks. First “Lama Mountain” came out from Red Bird Press and now “The Electric Palm Tree” from Flutter Press!

The poems–and essay–in The Electric Palm Tree were written several years ago at Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, Utah.

WHERE AM I?
In a landscape pitted and mined. At the edge of three million acres of the military’s bombing range. Where bombs are buried in undocumented locations. Where I can see old munitions mounds spreading out over the landscape like the ancient Mississippian city of Cahokia. Craters. Historic aircraft. A landscape big enough to lose a plane or a bomb in. A landscape that seems to make people want to drive really fast, crash into things, and blow them up.
On the boundary between Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, which is Nevada, and which sports casinos and strip clubs.
This isn’t exactly Walden Pond.

READERS– you can purchase this at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/miriam-sagan/the-electric-palm-tree/paperback/product-23288795.html

I am also giving away FREE REVIEW COPIES. You can have one to review on your blog, e-zine, magazine, or even something short on Lulu’s site under the book. Write me at msagan1035@aol.com to request a copy.

***

Flutter Press is a micro publisher, which caught my attention. It has its roots in the small press movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s, but the technology is much prettier and faster than the stapled chapbooks of the day. I’ve been watching this for a while–seeing who can make something small and beautiful–so appropriate for poetry. Editor Sandy Benitez is of a new generation, and has created a simple and elegantly sustainable way to work. The press charges a reading fee–very modest by today’s standards–and if accepted Benitez works with the author on design and cover. The author gets books at a discount and royalties. They’ve got a nice list. My book had exactly the feeling I was looking for–an old deco-ish neon sign feeling–of a motel in the desert.

When I was an editor at Fish Drum Magazine with founder Robert Winson the mag and chapbooks were published off of a rather erratic household budget. Using pod totally sidesteps this–the publisher has no outlay beyond time, editing, and designing. Granted this is quite a bit, but most small press editors do it for love in any case. I’m working to bring the publishing arm of Miriam’s Well more consciously into a micro publisher mode.

Eclipse of The Sun: Totality

there is no
blessing
for an eclipse
in Hebrew

although there are blessings
for a large crowd
first blossoms
a comet

putting on new clothes
earthquake
the passage of time
a rainbow

Above us, the disk of the moon covers the sun. You can look right at it without dark glasses for 90 seconds. It burns like an eye in space. Birds fly into the trees. We can see Venus, much higher than usual, and a star or two-—Sirius? We’re at a rest stop in Lusk, Wyoming, having slept in Nebraska. At the edge of shortgrass prairie.
Driving back into town, we encounter our first and last eclipse traffic of the trip. It takes a half hour to go a mile. At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument there are sunflowers and prairie roses and stinging nettles and fossils from millions of years ago.
A colander and a vegetable steamer from home cast sharply defined shadows of dozens of partial eclipses.

All week I’d been having intense eclipse dreams:

and in the underworld of sleep
you can visit
all the shadows
of your different selves

an ancient white-haired woman
sits glowing
without hands
in a room
too bright
to look at directly

a dark man
torments some young crows
(in yet another dream)

I’ve been writing a 24 section poem on suminagashied index cards called “Woman, Sleeping” which is about the eclipse, statues and monuments, and more. I’ll post additionally when it is finished.