Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Poem by Miriam Sagan - Diamond Tsunami

Map of the Lost

Another installment of Poetry? I just don’t get it. A series where I post a poem or group of poems by one author, followed by anything the author wants to say about the work. Today’s poem is from the book, Map of the Lost, by Miriam Sagan. 

Miriam is the author of more than twenty books, including Searching for a Mustard Seed: A Young Widow's Unconventional Story , which won the award for best memoir from Independent Publishers for 2004. She is also a founding member of the collaborative press, Tres Chicas Books

Some of her other books include Seven Places in America: a Poetic Sojourn, Rag Trade, Archeology of Desire, and The Art of Love . She lives and works right here in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

More importantly, she has posted haiku signs around her neighborhood (about three blocks from where I live)! You can find the original post on her blog about the Haiku in the Hood project here. And an update here.

Miriam has a generous spirit. On her blog,
Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art and Beyond, she posts work by her students and other artists (poets, visual artists, sculptors, novelists, you name it), along with her own work.

Seven Places in America
Here's a story about this poem: Moab, June 2009, Michaela and I were making one last pass through the desert before a big move to Wales. I ended up in the poetry section of Back of Beyond Books, pulled out a few books, read a little, and had the same sinking feeling that had been growing inside me for several years – what is this? Why is so much of this boring? Where is the voice that has a sense of context – a voice situated in the beautiful and terrifying world we live in?

Then I found Map of the Lost by Miriam. I pulled it out, opened it at random, and read the poem Diamond Tsunami. It lit up my mind. I think I laughed out loud at the end because of the light. Sure, I was just another crazy guy laughing in the poetry section, but later that summer, after a hiatus of three years, I started writing poetry again.


Diamond Tsunami

There is a wave
You are not in the wave

You are on the expensive balcony

You are at the Copper Queen in Bisbee, Arizona

You are in the wave

You let go of the child’s hand

The wave overturns the turquoise truck
You were so proud of that truck

The wave fills every swimming pool with salt water

There is no wave

The no wave breaks over the house

My body is transparent and you can see my heart beating

The wave is in the mind

The satellite photographs show the islands have disappeared

When I say “you” I mean the three persons of grammar:
Me, you, and everyone else

The wave covers the balcony and the palm trees
Yes, we are in the wave.


When the 2004 tsunami hit Indonesia and other parts of South Asia I was on vacation in the Sonoran desert. The news of the destruction was everywhere. I was in Bisbee, Arizona, home of an enormous open pit copper mine and a grand old lady of a hotel, the Copper Queen.

As a child, I was obsessed with tsunami and did not realize they were unlikely to hit Cape Cod. Water rising, big waves, sunken cities--these remain imaginative obsessions to this day, not eased by global warming.

Diamond tsunami is a Buddhist reference--or at least diamond is--to the jeweled net of Indra, where each gem reflects every other in a net of interconnection – and to the Diamond Sutra. Interconnection--how to make sense of it? How to make sense of events half a world away that I have absolutely no direct experience, but that nonetheless resonates?

As I wrote the poem I was cycling through all the possible attitudes I might take--this has nothing to do with me, this is actually happening to me, literally no one is an island versus I'm so far inland it can't matter. And then into the realm of the unconditioned--none of this is actually real. And then back again.

Then there is that truck. When I put together my collection MAP OF THE LOST for University of New Mexico Press I found that exact same truck being destroyed by water in a different poem! This time the truck was stranded in a flash flood off east Alameda Street in Santa Fe. What is the truck? A Buddhist vehicle of the dharma, civilization, or a New Mexican's caballero sense of self? I don't know. Just that water is greater.

Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Miriam Sagan

Links to Miriam's Blog
& some poems online

Rag Trade


  1. Miriam is also a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend!

  2. Hey..this is a beautiful poem u shared.. is my blog address.
    I have certain self written poems on it..i hope u will like them ..:)