Shell Midden & Playa

by Miriam Sagan


Shell Midden

Oysters steamed open, shells piled high
Beneath the old live oaks

Ours aren’t the only cities
To just dump waste

Scallop shell is the sign of the pilgrim
230 million years old from the Mississippian

A field of pitcher plants
In the marsh of eat and be eaten

Everything changes
In the Buddha nature of water

Estuaries lie between rivers and the sea
Where most of the world lives with its waste

Isle Massacre speaks of someone else’s dead
Subtropical plants brought for healing cure

Plankton is Greek for Little Wanderer
Moon jellies float, others follow the sun

Out towards horizon
Platforms for natural gas

Once kings and priests
Lived here on platform mounds

The scale of the air
From calm to breeze to storm to hurricane

Things also stick together
The nature of sand adhering into these dunes

And everything walks–
Tide, flow, barrier island

And even in this wind I ask myself
What I think of the past, what it thinks of me



I heard the waves
of that long gone
ancient sea

the lights of the airfield
blinked off in darkness
and across the way
the casino shone blue

I plugged in the string
of multicolored
Christmas lights
in the light

and slept until the crescent moon
rose with a crick
in its neck
over my bare feet

tangled in blankets
I swore this was the last time
I’d let you
leave me in a dream

dawn broke softly
over what was still
millions of empty acres
that weren’t all empty

stop the sound
of that distant
temple bell









Miriam Sagan is the author of twenty-five books, including the poetry collection MAP OF THE POST (University of New Mexico Press). She founded and directs the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College. In 2010, she won the Santa Fe Mayor’s award for Excellence in the Arts. She blogs at Miriam’s Well.


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