Sunday, September 29, 2019

Poem :: Our Lady of Sorrows Fiesta: Small Things

Does this work?  Go to Miriam Sagan's blog  listing belo to see the poem
I was prodded to write for 100,000 poets for change.  I am not too active on
Facebook or my blog, but Miriam invited me to this even, which had 20+ poets
and was well curated.  I even had my grand daughter with me.  Not the happiest
of topics but for reals.

 xx Joan

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Falling in Love with Pittsburgh

     This is what I want you to know.   I left Pittsburgh in 1965 and went to college.  I left again in 1969 after the Woodstock summer after college.  My mother kept asking me when would I return and I silently said, "Never." They sold he house, they would have gladly given me. I always visit.
Then my father died, then my mother.  That was long ago.  My brother got a bad diagnosis there four years ago. Then my daughter, Hope, moved to Pittsburgh while her husband, Leland, is in grad school there.  Having them move away was a blow.
       Then I fell in love with Pittsburgh and it's where i want to be when not here.
I was already crying, when my grand daughter was born there and died, in a four day beauty flash.
My heart is speaking Yiddish.  I am falling in love with so many people there I could at least
imagine living there.  The midwives, the woman at Farmer's Market, the grandma at Blue Slide Park from Russia. My brother is falling in love with my children, and our third grandchild, Luca.
My great niece, Lauren, and I already fell in love. She named me Amazing Tante Joan.
     This is what I want you to know.  My brother was Bar Mitzvah at Tree of Life.  In those days Rodef Shalom did not have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs.  They joined Tree of Life Synagogue, though it was on Craft Avenue, same as the Pittsburgh Playhouse. I went to Rodef Shalom, not far.  My little grand daughter went to pre-school there and my mother's perfume still in the halls.
I was, during all this, a Jew. Even though,  Even though we were taught not to let it show so much outside the house.  I couldn't blame them for teaching this, with Anne Frank in every diary written by every little Jewish girl.  She was the back story of out lives more than Hitler. He was behind the back story.
     So now this.  eleven people gunned down on Wilkins Avenue, the street where we lived from my birth to age three. I remember the Bar Mitzvah, just a scene in the new house, and the woman with the blue tattoo on her wrist. I helped take her coat. I have a selective memory, don't you.
What I want you to know is nobody says, "A good Jew" as they easily say "A good Christian."
We say a mensch, which means a human being.  My grand daughter now goes to a Jewish Day School and got a mensch card for her good deed. How do we carry these children forward?
     Her school and home are one mile down Shady Ave.  One mile as the crow flies.
I almost said bullet.  I almost said, the Jews could be mistaken for crows, with our
black garments for mourning.  This is what I want you to know, my grand girl carried by her other Grandpa, Charlie, who happened to be there for all of this.  I thank him, the sweetest of men who went to Rwanda for Peace Corps retirement.  We are so lucky to have each other.  He was with us for Passover too, and when baby Jade on life support,  he held her little hand all night for several nights.
My mother watches over Pittsburgh.  We are so lucky to have threaded the needle of Holocaust and made it here.  Sadly the eleven elders are gone.
      The youngest one not old enough, the oldest, 97, still too young. A minyan, ten needed to say mourner's Kaddish.   Eleven died.  The singers sing, "we will build this world from love."
A man videoed the march and I watched in twice. One if us can't stop crying. One of us is numb.
At a Bar Mitzvah, age 13, the boy becomes a man and is morally responsible for his choices. My childhood friend said her son, not raised Jewish but Jewish by birth, made his own Bar Mitzvah by hiking alone in the woods.
At least, tag very least, I am finally writing something, numb as I feel. Obsessed as I cam. In love, deeply and very, in love.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Four occurrences with birds

My daughter, Hope, and her four year old left yesterday after a delicious month of their company.
They lived in the new TeaHouse and came up for breakfast most mornings.  I felt like the luckiest person.   We are  all trying to remember happy again after digesting sadness last year.  I have been thinking of grief as a machine, an engine that chews its way through the dense material and manufactures something more refined.  Maybe an alchemy or an assembly line, not sure.I read that every grief is the most important one.

As we are leaving, driving to the airport, Corina comes up and finds a large bird in the house. She has no idea how it got in but nabs it in a bedsheets and sets it free.  That's one.

Then today Mike goes to get eggs, and comes across a mother hen and a clutch of chicks.  She must have sat on the eggs in the weeds outside the chicken coop and yard.   I wonder out loud if they will escape the hawks and coyotes.  That's two.

I stop to tell Myngo, my neighbor about the chicks. He has been seeing so many bluebirds, the ground is a carpet of blue.  Blue birds are signs of a healthy ecosystem, or so I've been told.  That's three.

This morning, sitting in the house we hear the familiar and dread bird-slam against the window. There should be a word for bird hitting window despite a  decal silhouette of a hawk.  We go and look and it is a hawk, taking a few last breaths.  On my table the book H is for Hawk sits unopened. What's going on, Corina wonders.

Before Hope left she found a tiny rabbit, carried it in her hands, though I am fearful of rabbit fever.  It was the cutest of creatures, and after she put it back, the mother seemed to reclaim it.  Who eats who?  Texas is flooding, we are now in a bird wonderland, they are feasting now on the refilled feeder.

Creatures coming and going all around us. My daughter is flying back to my old home. The hawk to hers, the hen making herself at home.  We are cleaning the house, grateful to have one. My friend's husband about to or already crossing over.

And of course, our spirit baby, Jade Bird.  Her ashes buried here in the best garden on our land.
Succulents and petunias and morning glory.  A hummingbird feeder still a-buzz. That's the place I go and feel most alive, into the sadness and the vitality.
That's invisible and indivisible. That's another One.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Perked Up

My  now four year old grand daughter Kaleia told me one late night avoiding bedtime,  that she was perked up, she illustrated with thumbs up.  She wasn't perked down, her two thumbs pointed the reverse. This has been my months long effort.  My friend Sharon taught me one can control one's attitude.  I am trying.

Today is sunny, not yet windy, the dishwasher humming, the birds fed, the hummingbirds on schedule.  We have 20 baby chicks and two baby turkeys in the greenhouse. Yesterday we went to Earth Day at Northern New Mexico and as we sat through talks on solar building, we nodded to one another.  We had done almost everything right.  Of course, there's room to improve but this lecture sure helped me perk
  My friend Julie Bennett took this Singing in the Rain photo after writing class at Pueblo of Pojoaque Library.  It's right by the Wellness Center where I swim and which locals call "The Wellness."  I am perked up after I swim.  My inspiration and role models are Osh who told me he's 85 and sometimes swims a mile.  He does a leisurely back stroke, all the time in the world. He dresses well and is cheerful.  He is living a perked up life.   I like also Helente who is in that age range.  Sometimes she arrives with her lanky Australian friend in his Speedo.  I want one of those guys to help me perk up when I am in my Eighties. I notice all the folks older than I am who are perked up.

I always felt perked up after a visit to Barbara and Alvaro.  Life was worth living and the Truchas immoveable feast they provided uplifted and inspired many. I bet many feel that he was a very close friend, as he had the gift of attention and heart.  Today I go to Alvaro's memorial   It has been hard to grieve enough for how I deeply feel at this loss. He died in August at 89.  Our last talks were that he wanted to do a ZEN service and make a Japanese garden at the grave of Jade Bird, our beloved birth and death grand daughter.  He's the one who told me, "Short is short, long is long, each life is complete."  I recalled those words in the Children's Hospital during the most baffling and dire of times. I think we wrote it over her crib. There were moments of perking up even then and this Alvaro teaching which he passed on from his own Zen teacher did help.

He twice insisted he would do a Zen Ceremony and the kids said, "Say yes , Moma.  How can you say no to that offer?"  Even though I knew he was in no way up to his generous nature and impulses, I said yes. He wrote to apologize he would be unable, as his own son died.

When Alvarao died, a few months after this generous offer, my grief hollows had been stretched so big by loss, his death fit inside the emptiness.  I was spared the dreaded response I knew I would have. I could handle it.  I dread losing Robert Bly, Gerald Stern, Gioia Timpanelli, these dear stars and my own personal best friends, too, I will lose.   Alvaro was a true Zen teacher, living so presently and elegantly, and knowing death was always right there, in those Truchas views, in the books that he wrote, in the music that would sound and then disappear, in the paintings he made.  He was living between the eternal and the ephemeral.  He was one of the best men, to me, I ever knew.   He's alive as long as I am, according to my rabbi. His own work will live on, of that I am convinced.  He was so focused to finish his translations of Diego Rivers's interviews by his brother.  He completed that important project which now has found a publisher.

Today I am perked up to drive to Truchas and remember Alvaro.

"The beekeeper kissed me,
the kiss it tasted like honey."

 "Besome el colmenero
que la miel me supo el beso."

translated form Spring Has Come: 
Spanish Lyrical Poetry from the Songbooks of the Renaissance

Monday, March 27, 2017


 My daughter Hope sent out a photo of a rainbow over our house.  This is not an uncommon sight, as we live where the rain meets the sunlight, but this photo by our dear Carol Neukirk came at a time, out of summer season, but still in grief season.   It is the first Yahrzeit of our baby Jade Bird's life and death on April 1-5.
I posted this on Facebook, always with my doubts about bumming people out in this already fraught world.  But when I heard back from 83 people,with many amazing comments, my second guessing calmed down.  You should see how quiet I have been, in blog, real time, and poetry world.

My old friend Ellen Schmidt spoke about playing on all the 88 keys, we don't just tinkle along merrily in the right hand of it, but submerge in the left handed bass, all the octaves of emotion. I think of the most famous koan of one hand clapping.  I think of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing  Maybe if we embrace the darkness and light, we don't get into the politics of denial and separation, we'd have a better chance.

I also recommend to myself to be kind and open hearted to I and Thou, to not second guess so much and just move.  I have all along been saying I am not writing, and doing nothing.  I open my computer, sigh, close it.  But little by little and since only October when my childhood friend Darry and his wife Tricia, the poet of the Urban Wild,  set up my new computer, I have been entering scraps of writing about Jade, and my own reaction to her absolute purity and infinite loss.  When I printed them up, with no thought of good or bad, there were pages and pages.  The miracle of my own perception of nothing being indeed something.   Was Jade nothing, or a being of intense beauty and a gift beyond our understanding.

In one of the writings I call her a female savior.  My husband says she came to break open out hearts and reiterates all the blessings she brought. He has not been the same, and in a good way I think.  Sita Jameson, singer of kirtan and sacred chant said that Jade did more in her brief life than many people ever do,  At nine months, Hope and Leland came back here to New Mexico, their fourth visit from their Pittsburgh home to their heart home.  Their friend  would lead a ceremony.  People in their community of friends had planted corn in the spring in honor of Jade, a special white corn used in Mayan ceremonies of birth and death.   To even see the corn they harvested was a miracle.  Noble, large white ears of corn, scraggly little cooked ones four inches long.  Hope, my daughter and mother of two daughters now, one on earth and one in the spirit world, said the sight of the corn is something she never expected.   It was a great beauty.

Our right hands did know what the left hands were doing. It was many hands for two days, shucking, roasting, grinding, preparing.  This little spirit was so honored in her brevity, so present and so alive in us.  At one time I stood full of gratitude for her and knew I would not be the same without her coming and going.  Still I sobbed deeply when her story was told.  The left and right hand together make corn grow and fire catch and prayer fly.  I have felt almost mute, but today was moved to write, thanks to the Facebook "Likes" and responses of friends on this crazy internet world in this crazy life and time of it.  Men and women too, both hands. Yes and No, the duality and just us sitting around today with plum tree in bloom, and the flowers we planted a year ago for Jade's burial, blooming again.

Traditionally everyone would fly in for an unveiling, within the year after a death, to see the head stone and say Kaddish.  The cousins, the aunts, they all traditonally gathered to weep a little more and then eat.

 We have a beautiful headstone, which I will keep private for now, and the poems I wrote will be my unveiling for my daughter and family.  There was a time last summer when I  was so weepy I thought should wear a veil.  I read in a grief book that once, for six months to a year  women did wear veils to show they were in mourning. I felt as if I had a virtual veil. I too wanted a warning sign that it was not business as usual. I wanted people to stop asking, "Are you writing?" Then, weeks later, floaters descended over my left eye, and days later, my right. I had an interior or somatic veil and could not see well for 6-7 weeks.  I am grateful that gradually, during my own trip to Pittsburgh, my eyes cleared.  So now I see, gratefully, in stereo.  I write to all of you,  unveiled.

A tile of a jade bird Hope found in Mike's workshop,
another of the minor miracles which reassure us.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Chance to Activate: The No Build Option

Though I want to curl up by the fire and binge watch for four years, activism has grabbed me by the apron strings and said, "Words have Power, Write for your health." By Jan 5th the BLM wants to hear from us.  Hunt Power proposes a 33 mile  345kV transmission line through the exquisite Rio Grande Valley. Towers will be up to 120' high, don't get me started! for more info

My letter below has my talking points highlighted. Please jot by e-mail, by hand, or post office a little letter.   Volume matters (NUMBER OF LETTERS, NOT LENGTH) and we all have experience or knowledge of the road to Los Alamos, or Black Mesa, or dances at the pueblos.  Please read my letter and send yours to:  or

BLM, Verde Transmission Line Project, P.O.Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115

When it’s all gone to money, what do we have?

 Our first garden was in 1973, under the proposed “Verde” Transmission line and with the first shovel of earth we uncovered an arrow head, pot shards, and an ax head.  I mention this to point out the fragile and special circumstances of this land in sacred and archaeological riches.  Northern New Mexico is a rare treasure and should be treated respectfully.  I am a writer, and the land and its people have been a main source of inspiration.  My ten books all are concerned with the extraordinary gift that is New Mexico. When I taught at UNM in Los Alamos each drive brought renewed appreciation of the view sheds.  Views will be the first and most obvious loss, and I implore the BLM to stay in compliance and not make exception for preserving these invaluable visual resources. 
       My family has lived in New Mexico since then and we have three native New Mexican children and four grandchildren. 
The “Verde” project, with its doublespeak and insulting name, is an affront and can only bring harm to the land and people it impacts.
   This place of cultural pride, the Hispanic and native people, is worth of exceptional protection. If there were a category of National Treasure this should be it, a living museum, holy place, sanctuary, and wild beauty. As it is please ensure compliance with National Historic Preservation Act.
    In the very well run scoping meeting we heard about the statistics of  health  dangers (a caution that I have been aware of for decades), the wetlands with its birds, the possible impact on bees, Film industry economics, tourism, and the devaluing of real estate.  My son and his wife’s family have property right in the epicenter of this project, and they, as many others, have a modest nest egg in this land. Nothing when compared to Hunt, but a livelihood for them. please do not let one corporation degrade the economics of many.
    The Pojoaque Valley with its schools, churches, traditional communities of Santa Fe County, and pueblos is like not place I’ve ever seen.   Los Alamos National Lab employees, school bus drivers, teachers, doctors, and workers from a multi-ethnic and socioeconomic pool, live as neighbors.   Already this project is dividing people.
     I am sure it is difficult for the pueblos to pass up the opportunity to improve their pueblos by a cash infusion for schools, health, and housing, but in the long long run is this what the majority of their people want? I can’t help but think of the Water Protectors in North Dakota and wonder if this might spark similar response as the word gets out nationally.
    This electric line has already cost me nights of sleep and anxiety.  It impacts all of our quality of life while for Hunt it is cool speculation, they could not even prove that it is needed besides a business opportunity.

The earth remembers us.  How do you want to be remembered?

BLM, please put me on record as voting NO to Verde and Hunt for these reasons.

Joan Logghe

Santa Fe Poet Laureate Emerita

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A loss is a loss is a loss

It's been so long. Haven't had the combo of calm and emotion that I like to launch each blog entry, but today I am allowing myself pajamas at  noon.  Silk and dotted with maroon hearts of all sizes.  I think they are silk, discover in a clothing exchange by my eldest daughter. In case you don't know, my youngest daughter lost her second child, Jade Bird Guthrie at 4 days.

I want to be like Maira Kalman, focused delightfully on the ordinary even after she lost her husband and partner Tibor.  If you don't know her, you probably do and don't know.  She did many New Yorker covers, including the famous "Newyorkistpan" one after 911, remember Kvetchnya, Pashmina, and Botoxia?  She has the gift of humor after loss, and a humorous approach to life.
She also illustrated Obama's inauguration for the New York Times.  I first found her in Bill Gersh's house, the children's book Max Makes a Million, about the poet dog whose dream is Paris. And guess what? He sells his book of poems for a million and gets to live that dream. Wonder why I love her?

I recommend her, just Google, she's a vitamin for me, loving the odd and the daily, a man's suit, a paper punch, and hats and hairdos everywhere.  Which brings me to Beti again., the hair stylist.  My mom on her yahrzeit or anniversary of death.  Same date as Robert Winson's so I light two candles.  My mom has been gone 15 years which is difficult to grasp.  This year I was glad she was not here to endure the loss of our grandchild, Jade Bird.  She missed all of my lovely and living grandkids, but we enjoy them for her.  Galen's blond tuft of hair we attributed to her expertise in coloring.

I know it's been six month's since we lost Jade Bird and why I haven't written in this blog.  I wanted to experience the processing of grief.  This week the lovely Mary Beth came by with a card for Jade. Late, she said. But it was perfect, an acknowledgement that this is real and human and endures.

As I was deciding to write this two occurrences occurred...  My g-mail opened up to the week of Jade's death and the  e-mails pouring in and out around it. My heart has been a bit dumbed down due to anti-depressants, one I can't pronounce.  Then just now a bird hit the window about four feet away from me.  I think it is reminding me to write.  Hope, my bereaved daughter, has been writing sporadically and said it needs a warning label.  She goes for it.  I realized that so much of how I am now is better, and I don't feel compelled to tell every stranger on the street, or man emptying trash at the post office, or bank teller what happened to Jade.  But though the outer M & M coating is less crisp and now deeper, maybe a fig Newton, there is still a core of loss.

So, 45 current blog followers (up from the nine I brag about), if it's too much you can unblog me.
My gift to you is Maira Kalman.  Your gift to me is reading this.  I met Tess Gallagher after Raymond Carver died and she was still visiting the grave daily, and having people impatient with her.  Get over it could be the national mantra. She said there is an ecology of grief, a term which stayed with me over 20 years.  She and Donald Hall, and Phyllis Hotch,  and Miriam Sagan and Paul Monette and Isabel Allende and Joan Didion and Mirabai Starr all wrote bravely into the grief.  A baby that didn't make it, but made it for four days is not a teenager or losing a lover.  But a loss is a loss is a loss, and grief will have its wild way with us.