SBP Blog

Stone Bridge Cafe: "From the Desk Window"

Thomas Joel - Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

On the menu this week is a powerful little poem written by Miriam Sagan in Itoshima, Japan that transports you into the poet's subjective perception as she observes the Japanese village and countryside unfurling outside her desk window. With just a few choice words Sagan captures the act of looking out and its paradoxical connection to looking inward: of turning the mind's eye outward to observe, to see your world in a different culture and yourself in another person. 


from the desk window

blue roof tiles

those dragon scales

that ripple

like the sea

and a corrugated

green tin roof

then the lettuce beds

of the old lady’s house


when she opens the screens

I can watch her

watch television

or eat a little snack,

she has quality

of loneliness

or aloneness

I recognize—

she’s the one

who is left


beyond that

dark misty mountains

on this early January day

and off to my left

the shrine with its decrepit

swing set and climbing structure

the tiny park

and the curved stone gate

making a place



if you keep going

not towards the train station

but down to the rice fields

there is a larger shrine


dark, two sets

of guardian statues

and I think

maybe I shouldn’t have

put money in the box

and pulled the rope—

there was no bell



I gather

I’ve been praying

all wrong

should know

what spirit

I’m addressing

and ask for rain

or clear weather

I’ve just been

stilling my mind

in that wordless

invocation of

keep us safe and

don’t leave us


in my backpack

across Japan

I’m carrying

the medal

of the Blessed Kateri Tekawitha

who although the Lily of the Mohawk

stands outside

the Santa Fe cathedral,

the prayer on the back

says: may we walk

in harmony

with nature


now the old lady

has opened her sliding doors

cracked for fresh air,

she looks up

for an instant

and sees me

another old lady


in my green nightgown

and lavender sweater,

and I should wave

but overcome

by shyness

look down

at these words.


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 ( has 1500 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.

If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines:

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