Miriam McFall Starlin’s Wait a Minute

While here at Mary’s house, Mary showed me a volume of poetry written by Oregon Poet Miriam McFall Starlin that her cousin Barrett had given her. It wasn’t a name I was familiar with but when I started reading I found a number of poems I was rather fond of.

I suppose most of us would find some resemblance to ourselves in:

Reminder to myself – No. 1

She holds her bitterness
like a pin oak clinging
to its dead brittle leaves
through autumn gusts
through winter storms.

With mean-spirited tenacity
she refuses to see
the promise of spring.

I’m sure I liked this poem much more because of the subtitle. It’s easy to blame others for holding grudges while forgetting the grudges we ourselves hold. I know I’ve held a few longer than a year. Perhaps that’s because we refuse to take time to recognize the opportunities for new growth.

I found a lot myself and this web site in:


If it seems there is
too much silence
too much acceptance
remember before I closed the door
the sign I hung outside it
said, “quiet,”
“please do not disturb.”
but should you decide
to enter stealthily
or by passkey,
you will find faded photographs
of anger,
single-spaced typed white sheets
of pain
and dulled black carbon pages
of sorrow
scattered everywhere ,
and off in the farthest corner
all my broken promises
and bits of my scattered mind.

I’m not unaware I often present a rather Pollyannaish outlook on life here at “In a Dark Time” but that doesn’t mean that I don’t harbor some dark thoughts about life itself and certainly about our government. Luckily you can’t see all the newspaper articles I’ve stored in Yojimbo with the intention of ranting about them . Luckily for you, the mere act of bookmarking an article knowing I can go back to it at anytime is sometimes enough to make me let go of my anger. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t get outraged by the stupid acts of people and their needless cruelty.

I’m sure some readers may find Starlin’s book too sentimental for their tastes, but I like poems like this one:


There is no magic except
sunlight or moonlight or
or mayflower or snowflake
or love.

There’s certainly no magic in life if we don’t bring it ourselves, but Starlin points out some of the magic if you’re paying attention. Hopefully, I also manage to do that with something I’ve written or photographed.

5 thoughts on “Miriam McFall Starlin’s Wait a Minute

  1. Your work here keeps us attentive to the magic. The magic you missed here yesterday involved clouds lined like black cadillacs and hail deep enough to cause wrecks. Good to see you back on line.

  2. Miriam McFall Starlin speaks as a whole person. Strong cautionary image, “holding bitterness like a pin oak clinging / to its dead brittle leaves.” I appreciate her poetry. Thanks for these.

  3. Remember IA Richards? Harvard prof who instructed generations of other profs in how to read/write/teach poetry. He was especially known for his readiness to dismiss pure sentiment as a reason for preferring a poem. He quoted many pathetic poems, making that point. A famous one began, “One more little spirit to heaven has flown/to dwell with the angels above….” In brief, Richards said there is spurious (unearned) sentiment, a cheap or superficial version, and there is the more genuine sort, closer to the bone. I am neither agreeing with him here, nor debunking. But I’d the poems you quote here show restraint. Th often anthologized piece by Ben Jonson (On the Death of his First Son) succeeds in part because of his understated grief. We tend to prefer that over blatant weepy stuff. I find Mary Oliver veering off the road of sentiment into vagueness, which some people savor. Others think she’s a master. I like James Wright most of the time. Others might consider him a romantic slob. So I have never figured this out in a satisfactory way. But if you can read Robert Hayden’s poem in memory of his father [Those Winter Sundays] without wincing, you should probably check into the Heartless Hotel for a week.

  4. I was remimded of Lou Reed’s brilliantly searing musical elegy “Magic and Loss”…

    “As you pass through fire as you pass through fire
    trying to remember its name
    When you pass through fire licking at your lips
    you cannot remain the same
    And if the building’ burning
    move towards that door
    but don’t put the flames out
    There’s a bit of magic in everything
    and then some loss to even things out”

Comments are closed.