Poetry by Miriam Sagan: The City Remembers You, salt drops, and Flock

The City Remembers You

Do you remember walking along Stonewall Beach
when you were so weak, muscle withered away
but walked as far as what we called “the pipe”
a metal piece sticking through the sand?
It was August, the island
full of Manhattan shrinks and professors
sunburning along with the au pairs and hired help.
The first time I met you
you were leaning across a bicycle
in San Francisco Chinatown,
the first time I saw you
you were screwing a wine key into a lemon
for no apparent reason
in that bungalow in Diamond Heights
and unsuccessfully
trying to sleep with my roommate.
I never loved anyone but you
except for all the other people I loved
and on the way to a Ravi Shankar concert
we passed a For Rent sign
on Rose Alley
and decided to get married,
you said, so unromantically,
“I never knew what I wanted
a woman for
before you”
and went off to a performance
of Wild Woman with Steak Knives.
You’d ride on your bicycle
gong to Tower Records
in search of the obscure and precious
notes that filled your ears that were
already swollen
with the foggy evil wind
that made it hard to swallow.
And you were worried the time at Naropa
when you heard
William Burroughs tell Phil Whalen
“We have killed the brown recluse”
and for a dreadful moment you thought
he’d murdered a Tibetan monk
before you realized it was a spider.
Do you believe
that grief can end
in a year, a lifetime, a moment?
Or that sex
is really love—even a one night stand
might lead to lifetime happiness,
or that love is sex
disguised as conversation
or sitting next to someone
at a John Cage silent concert.
Fuck this, I’ve had my life
must have my death
without you
because coma turned you to corpse
without me—
colon, esophagus, tongue, earlobe.
You could eat
sushi by the expensive piece
and, too high, think
the ants in the sandy ant hill
weren’t benign, might be
out to get you
in some obscure way.
There is too much gossip
since you died
to even try and
fill you in,
you always did approve
mildly of bad behavior,
and when you dreamed
it was often of what
you called a dream version
of someplace
we already were.

 

salt drops

salt drops, the tears
flooded the tiny ship
floundering in the iris
of my eye

the motel pool
perfect square of blue
the ripples
emanate
only from me
my presence, motion

I existed, and water
that ceased
returned to its
preternatural calm

I left no trace
not my tears
nor the capsized ship
not my entire
story

handwritten in the captain’s log
before the storm.

 

Flock

the pigeons of Shiraz
have one black wing
one white
are marked
as if by the calligrapher’s hand
must wheel towards G-d

the pigeons of Manhattan
swell with iridescent
necks
smell of soot
build nests of detritus
must wheel towards G-d

I held a metaphor
like a smooth stone
close to my heart

when I awake
I could see the inside of the rose.

 

Miriam Sagan is the author of 30 published books, including the novel Black Rainbow (Sherman Asher, 2015) and Geographic: A Memoir of Time and Space (Casa de Snapdragon). which just won the 2016 Arizona/New Mexico Book Award in Poetry. She founded and headed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College until her retirement this year. Her blog Miriam’s Well (http://miriamswell.wordpress.com) has a thousand daily readers. She has been a writer in residence in two national parks, at Yaddo, MacDowell, Colorado Art Ranch, Andrew’s Experimental Forest, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Iceland’s Gullkistan Residency for creative people, and another dozen or so remote and unique places. Her awards include the Santa Fe Mayor’s award for Excellence in the Arts, the Poetry Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts, and A Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa.

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