Miriam Sagan: Untitled: After Donal Judd, set of 20 woodcuts

Untitled. Richard Hanus
West Texas is
big. When my father
stroked out
we drove east to Amarillo
but going no closer nor
further away 
than we usually were
from his ravaged brain.

Drove east to an ancient
flint mine, a bar-b-que place
twice the size of our city block,
a large gin and tonic.

Some things are so large
there is no way around them.

a black square
lifted from its border
becomes a darkened window

this time ringed
by the San Juans
snow peaks reaching 
into the heavens

from Mesa Verde’s
keyhole-shaped doors
you can look out
and see a world
at war with itself

actually you can see this
from anywhere

a grid of red lines
the word EXIT
doesn’t exactly reassure me

no more does the word “bittersweet”
tell me where I’m going

this blue square
within me

that I am hiding
from you

there’s no yellow here

rain streaking the dusty

windows of the old house

an ironing board

that folds out of the wall

a well worn

my lungs
have inhaled
the waste of cities
and the flight
of a goldfinch

four quadrants
of red

cavalry of crosses
by the ruined adobe

Easter week

I walk away
from the collage
of women walking away
with jars of water
on their heads

every plague
is a liberator

we’re leaving now
outside the red frame

munching an orange
or drawing
an alligator pear

like sugar in tea
or salt in soup
the dream dissolves
into morning

I think I saw you
at least
the pain 
under my sternum
is familiar

as I google
breastbone location

the watch
has a fast heartbeat
ticking the minutes

like an embryonic

time also

tell me something
about black

that isn’t
the absence of light

rather the presence of

grid of the city
red lines in the Navajo rug
an electrocardiogram
of an imaginary

in the rental house
we discover
what our hosts imagine
is necessary for us:
a plastic colander, vinegar,
a measuring cup
that measures 1/3 of a cup
never a whole

and what I imagine
is necessary for us:
a pot of purple tulips

there are no transitions
a sandbar builds up
slowly, by accretion
grain by grain

so too
the storehouse of Egypt
in Pharaoh’s dream. 

one day you are a slave
the next, free

the San Juan peaks
are covered in snow
they rose
inch by inch
might still be rising
but not quickly enough
to deter even
a casual mountain climber

the plagues seem sudden.
G-d hardens Pharaoh’s heart
to the annoyance
of the seder guests
who are increasingly
ready to eat

rhe past also
builds up bit by bit.
It seems gradual, but
suddenly it’s time to go.

cut me a break.

at the end
there is a blue window
just as there was
at the start

really at any moment
you can pause
and look through it
at the dirt road
the neighbor’s
raised beds
waiting for the warmer
bit of spring

or look
as if into a mirror
but see the faces
of other people
those you’ve hated
and those you’ve loved

having this body

Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her most recent include Bluebeard’s Castle (Red Mountain, 2019) and A Hundred Cups of Coffee (Tres Chicas, 2019). She is a two-time winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards as well as a recipient of the City of Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a New Mexico Literary Arts Gratitude Award. She has been a writer in residence in four national parks, Yaddo, MacDowell, Gullkistan in Iceland, Kura Studio in Japan, and a dozen more remote and interesting places.

See Richard Hanus


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