Editor and publisher of

Santa Fe Poetry Broadside

featured in this issue.

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Reviewed in this issue: Another Desert: Jewish Poetry of New Mexico

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To order:

Another Desert:Jewish Poetry of New Mexico

Aegean Doorway: New and Selected Poems

Unbroken Line:Writing in the Lineage of Poetry

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Miriam Sagan

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Ms. Miriam Sagan

Miriam Sagan

Travelling Band

Sitting in the tent beneath the rain
Old man watching the flamenco dancers
A look on his face–he'll never be the same
As if he'd seen Paris, or an apparition of the Virgin

Old man watching the flamenco dancers
Like my grandfather's story about his village
He'd never seen Paris, or an apparition of the Virgin
Just a Russia of sunflowers and soldiers

An old man in my grandfather's village
Heard Brahms's horn trio played just once
In a Russia of sunflowers and soldiers
Never heard it again his entire life

Brahms's horn trio played just once
My grandfather came to an America of Victrolas
Heard over and over his whole life
That glorious clash of brass once played by wandering musicians

My grandfather came to an America of Victrolas
Missed Stalin, Auschwitz, klezmer bands
That glorious clash of brass once played by wandering musicians
Gypsy melodies that went up in smoke

Stalin, Auchswitz, klezmer bands
It's better to run for your life
Gypsy melodies that went up in smoke
Sometimes you can get what you want

It's better to run for your life
Or settle down on a piece of land
Sometimes you can get what you want
The flamenco dancer snaps her fan

Settle down on a piece of land
Brew your coffee, grow your corn
The flamenco dancer snaps her fan
Her heels are sharp, her toe is worn

Brew your coffee, grow your corn
A beauty that you want again
A heel that's sharp, a toe that's worn
Starlight, moonlight, endless plain

A beauty that you want again
The look on your face, you'll never be the same
Starlight, moonlight, endless plain
In a lit tent beneath the rain.


What There Was To Do In The Ukraine–1908

My grandfather Avrum
Thirteen years old
Wakes up in Odessa at dawn
Either it is snowing
Or sunflowers blossom
Each the size of a dinner platter
He ties on teffilin
Wraps himself in a white and blue
Woolen prayer shawl
Says: Blessed Art Thou
For not having made me a woman.

What is a woman?
His mother is a woman–
She is actually his stepmother and his aunt
His real mother bled to death
Birthing him
It was May in the Ukraine
Just turning green
His young father's face
Looked into the face
Of his dead wife's sister
Married her weeping.

What is a woman?
His little sister, Manya
Swaddled in rag bands
In the evening he'd unwrap her
Let her stretch and play
On the rug before the fire
She'd kick and gurgle.

My grandfather took off his teffilin
He put them back in the velvet bag
His mother had decorated in cross-stitch
He folded up his prayer shawl
He never prayed again
He came to America
"The tsar did not like me,"
My grandfather told me,
"That's why I left Russia."

Yesterday, on Rosh Hashana,
I watched my nine year old daughter
Wrap herself in a prayer shawl
while the woman rabbi davened
And the woman chazzan sang.
I want to thank
My grandfather Avrum–
That was the best thing
To do in the Ukraine
In 1908–
Leave.


After You

Every so often, the phone rings for you,
You've been dead, what is it now, three, four years.
After you, I went looking for the mustard seed
Like the woman in the Buddhist teaching story:
Shakyamuni Buddha told her
He'd bring her child–in some versions a cat–
To life again
If she'd bring one yellow pungent seed
From a household that had never known death.

Since you've been dead, I've had a lot of fun,
I've played cards at the kitchen table,
Dominoes with snake eyes like the dice,
All the board games our daughter has favored
From "Barbie's Dream Date" to "The Game of Life."

After you. It sounds impossible.
Alive you drank the oxygen in a room,
You could talk for hours, pin the listener
With your latest enthusiasm
Whether salt water tanks or Japanese-style Zen.

Who is "You?"
The other, the beloved.
First you alive, then dead, then you becomes
The next man I love
Another husband, another name
Signed to the will, the valentine.
Or "you" some part of myself I'm speaking to
Or you, the reader, or you, the passage of time
That wilts the proverbial rose, as well as the real roses in the pitcher
On the mantle, where you, my first husband,
Would have complained they cluttered things up.

I never found that mustard seed
Nor did the woman in the story
Who heard tale after tale of loss and sorrow
Knocking on the turquoise doors of a thousand dusty villages.


Black Cats

Called, my fears come
Like my black cats
Who return to the back door
Summoned by the clink of fork on can

The little one, the female, naps
Suddenly talks in her cat sleep
A meow of fear or indignation
You say I said "oh shit" in my dream

It's a problem that both
My husbands' names begin with "R"
I wake up from a dream of Honolulu in an earthquake
Not knowing who I ran after

What about that time
I put on my black shirt hung
For too many days on the clothesline
And felt something stirring in the right sleeve

It did not bite
But crawled out
A black and white butterfly
Uninjured, flew away

The girl in the fairy tale
Weaves her swan brothers shirts
Of green nettles, missing one sleeve
The last brother keeps a wing


Empty Table

The table is set for the dead
The table is bare
Your cheap gold-colored watch stopped
Bad feng shui, it sits
In my glove compartment
Three years after your death
Along with a broken
Necklace of coins
And a travel clock that doesn't tick
The train purrs at the station
But it does not arrive or depart
Don't look too closely
At this table
Its wood is woven with hair
With the gauze of a shroud
With silk unravelled
From a mourning scarf
I gave your expnsive wool coat
To a Zen monk who cut it up
And sewed patches for a robe
This table is black
This table is white
No cups, no plate
Set with an empty memory
Of hunger
Of a sky grown blank
With waiting