Thursday, November 7, 2019


You're interested in the history of the house
and there are few things I know, being
a being who thinks history is minutia, not
wars and subdivided lands, burial mounds

though I must admit the Jewish cemetery
on Blackador holds my two favorite corpses,
Let me give history a whirl, which is so opposite
a spin.  Not political but personal, as Pittsburgh

is a city made of people people. I love Rodin
and the Burghers of Calais who, apart from nudity
look like they are standing on Penn Avenue lamenting
the price of fish or the late delivery of chipped ham.

There was a Carriage House out back with a pump
where with a few gestures spit out black tarry oil
and up the ladder newsprint from the 1930"s.
Then the dreams where I lived in a remodeled version

I secretly always wanted to be in exile,  live there,
after the tennis balls against the brick house, the ice rink
down the blocks, and out toy version on the patio.
Did I tell you a night watchman came by twice a night

and my father slept with a shillelagh by his bed
we always though he won in a card game. There is no
chronology here as in my books. I date the pages,
the basement stairs where my brother and I sat

before there were treads we played train. He always
was the engineer and I a passenger.  Or when I chocked
on popcorn before there was Heimlich and he thought he'd done
me in which is maybe secretly what every sibling wants.

This is veering dark, when I feel light around you, dear house
with your 68 year old Japanese maple tree, a bonsai set
in concrete.  Did you know the famous lecturer lived next door
who looked death in the eye, saw his life, and backed death off?

The friends who still live there for me, Judy, Marlin, Peggy Lou.
The autumn Marlin and I lined the streetcar tracks with buckeyes
and the police or some official came and we feared jail.
The streetcar was my totem animal, all charge and growl

and bell, and that left swing that brought me home.  You wanted
history and I  invented dreams, where monthly or weekly you appear.
My history channel for nostalgia or nest or acorns planted
to see if what I left could grow where lightening struck once.

The Carriage House is gone,  revealing an apartment
two Europeans in the window eternally taking tea, discussing W W III
 I tried to find a way back, walked and walked the block.
Good Bones an architect might say. Dear house who owns you now?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Small Miracle on Yom Kippur

Dear Chavah,
I went up to Taos after missing last year and felt so at home, though I only slightly know a handful of people.   I was asking various folks, Bobbie, Rose, Bonnie, about you and feeling so much the threads of beautiful, accessible Judaism you spun in Taos.  I remember bringing Hope, now a mother of two, with me. I just felt such gratitude to you and close. I though of you with love countless time during the Holidays. I also appreciated the new Rabbi, Judith Ha-Levi and my driver and husband, Michael.
When we got home I had a package.  I order my books that are out of print to keep some stock, and this time I ordered from a new vendor, ABE books.  The package was a copy of Blessed Resistance, and sometimes, since they are second hand books, they are signed copies so I always check. When I opened this books, minutes after coming down from Taos, this is what I saw.       To Myra and Ben,     The parents of my favorite Rebbe on this planet. Carol (Chavah)gave me the title for this collection, & really reconnected me to what I love in Judaism.     

      All Blessings --Joan Logghe  1999

I don't know if your parents are living, but I do know this moment was one of awakened holiness, and wanted to tell you this small miracle.I remember how proud of you they were when they got the book, now twenty years ago,  They loved that you were mentioned. My Tashlich poem, written after a day with you for Rosh Hashanah, was printed this year  in the Taos Jewish Community  Newsletter.
So, that's one of the many miracles.  Let me know what you think.  If you want the signed book I am glad to send it. But for now, I send much love.   Joan
I heard back from Rabbi Chavah immediately, and she agreed it rated the miraculous designation.  I mean 20 years, right??This week is the year anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, and I have barely written since my response to that.So this year, the tree of life is glowing outside my window this first snow of the year, red crab apples, cerise apricot leaves, and the glowing gold of valley cottonwoods.
A belated Happy New Year.

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.