Is Your Name Miriam?

Martine Bellen


It is too early to leave the mountain.

The sange-mon[2]
Singing frogs
Sangre Cristo

The ocean has been singing all night. A crimson song. A cricketeer calling. Balladeer.
It has been spitting out venom and iguana and tortuga and bougainvillea honey.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s big white tooth.

She bites off a hunk of sun-warmed ocean
And gulls flock to her. When they disperse
She gets a face full of feathers,
                                   Borrowed and broomed into
The ocean that levitates the giant flying rock of a moon.

When the moon weeps into the foamy tide, a fiery tale,
                                                                 though tongue-tied.
When the moon seeps through the gateless moon gate

When the ocean cries black tears
And pelicans ride its breath, peligroso!

Both moon and ocean, solo and whole.

Solar and whirling

When the wind dances, sand dances beside the sea
Sea serenading
Sarina—as in seashow, as in tell it to the marines

When stripes of rose-light bloom the sky like pelicans pedaling on waves 

This curse that our descendants bear, this earth
Tied to time and ocean,
Moon chain dangling in night’s vest…
Her golden chin.
Cut her down, she drops into the breaking sea.
Walk on a crack and it’s your mother’s back
You’re breaking
Stretching from here to yonder
As you tramp across her hills and mangrove hair

A murder of crows, a murdered wife for the life
Of a father. Two oranges for a dollar.

The moon phoning the foamy sea, wind following waves, dancing sand.

Nothing is hindered when the moon and sky abide.
Nothing in the hinterland.

A swap scheme
One moment for the next
A swamp scene

She awakens with the sun and brushes her teeth.
Her near brush with death; its loose brushstroke, the stroke
                                                                                        loosing her from life.
The curse was loosed onto the world
A cure that is passed on to our descendants.

The silent part being the most important. The silent part being space,
Being-space with ocean-air.

And when he chokes her—deflating her lungs
nonspace   moonspace

The silent part being your neck, a tunnel that sound must swim through to be born,
the tunnel of love, the River Styx.


For me, cinema is essentially emotion.[3]
For me, life is essentially motion.
For me, it’s light moving across the sky.
It’s me moving across you.
When this day is accepted as death
When a word is whispered into a moan or noun…
A rune or an ear.

In the magic lantern of film, day may be night—
I may be you.
For me, it’s a walk-on cameo,[4]
It’s murdering your wife for my dad.
What I see/what I feel/how the two blend as one picture/
Moving waves carrying the dark light on its back.
The burden passed on to our descendants.
My eye traveling back and forth, following the tennis ball during the on-screen
Volley.[5] Me versus you. Our backs facing the wall.
My back facing you; your back facing them.
Just tell me, who doesn’t know a villain who stands in the way of one’s happiness?[6]
Just tell me, if you kill the villain
Are you free from the villain? If you find an ersatz to kill the villain,
Which is the teacher?


The mountain foils your plans. It’s too early to leave.

The mountain made of swords

As an alpinist

Climbing blogs


Sinking into a soundless subway
As I was coming to, I heard a crowd cheering, a crow flying into the distance.
I hadn’t realized that I had momentarily slipped away.

Oh now surely, madam, you're not going to tell me that there hasn't been a time that you didn't want to dispose of someone. Your husband, for instance?[7]
Yourself, perhaps? Your writer?[8]

Each was what the other had not chosen to be, the castoff self, what he thought he hated but perhaps in reality loved.[9]

When all mes meet on a train, collide on a carousel. When I do not like the mes that I see. When the movie screen before me is projecting a war zone, a killing field of mes.

He carries a double bass as he climbs onto the train,[10]
Barefoot as he climbs the mountain of swords.[11]


The war zone vanishes and we are at a carney, eating candy clouds and piglet pink cotton, riding roller coasters and waves, costars and starlets. There’s a calliope and a tunnel of love, a tunnel of death. The penny arcade is by the ocean and the moon has just begun to rise. Young men are shooting rifles, handing stuffed animals to their girls who are shrieking gaily.

The teacher holding the head of a cow, forcing it to eat crow.
The teacher by the blackboard, the teacher in the sky.
There are moons revolving around her; there are stars
And the moons are not wet and the stars have not broken with the waves,
Though the moons and stars are projected into the watery screen.
The teacher yells at her dolls to keep quiet but they prattle on
And she must behead one, pull off her best student’s arm.
The student holds up her other arm to the teacher,
Though the student no longer has a head.
The teacher tells the dolls they have been dead for a long while
And other students are studying them at this moment.
                                                       They lie still, mirror death.
The leader of the dolls, Barbie, says, You thought you were standing alone with your back to me and now you find I am standing alone with my back to you.[12]

The tip-off that the villain is a fiery star is when his cigarette vanishes midsentence.

The tip-off that the villain is the scriptwriter is when he forgets his lines.

He tells you to kill his father

Dying symptoms, dying synonyms:
Numb skull
On one’s last legs
Tossed in a gravel pit
One foot in the grave
Wandering where wind cannot reach you
In extremis

He wants his father dead so he can have his mother, save her, slave her, shine in her eyes and be whole—the reflection of the moon on the water.  

He wants his father dead because he believes if he were, the movie would be about him. His father has only a walk-on role, no lines, is not even in Equity—there is no equity.
He is the star and the world is behind him.

Look! There is the gate and it is gateless.

It is time to leave the mountain now.

Is your name Miriam?

It is quiet; snow has snuffed out color,
Laffy taffy stretching across the sense-scape,
The sensai.
Exchange murders like telephone numbers,
I thought I was standing alone with my back to you
And now I find you.
If we put all our so-called eyes together, we would see everything.
If you murder your father, you murder your future brother, you murder my son.

The first door opened onto a second chance
The first floor was this life.
The house was in need of repair, a new gate, one more barrier. She angrily called the handyman to help her, and he happily arrive. Her child still played with dolls, had a bad habit of popping out their heads. When her child told her that a stranger on a train murdered her, she cried, “Where are we, standing alone with our backs to each other?”

Why yes, it is my name. How did you...?

Even after decapitation, the brain lives for seven seconds and one might continue grimacing for thirty more after that

Because it is the same as mine…and hers…and hers…

The same as

Those heads

Following the tennis match, the movie…right, left. Heads marching/rolling

She paid the outstanding bills and wrote a check to cover her funeral expenses and then closed her eyes. There had been curiosity about death.
She had contemplated it since birth, though
had gotten no closer to understanding it

Thich Nhat Hanh says because we believe we come from nothing and vanish into nothing,
               we live with the fear of annihilation, of no
beginning and no end.

My ex-husband dreamed I was dead.
My son dreamed he concocted a way to kill me.
My teacher sat with his back to me.

This entire scheme is born from the mind of a killer.

I beg your pardon, but aren't you...?

The motion picture from each character’s perspective…

When someone is sick, he becomes a patient. When a patient dies, his doctor might feel he has failed him.

When a patient dies, the doctor will say he has lost him.

The patient might say he has been considering this moment his entire life. He and his doctor might exchange a look, crisscross, and the doctor might realize that this moment is not his but his student’s.

When you lose someone you love

When you awaken to life.

On the street, down the drain, when she flies into the sky, the flying clouds across the vast blue screen.


1 A line from Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

2 Morning prayer or Gatha of Atonement.

3 Stated by Alfred Hitchcock.

4 Hitchcock’s cameo in Strangers on a Train was eleven minutes into the film.

5 A scene from the film Strangers on the Train. Viewers watching a film of viewers watching a match, watching a watch.

6 Referencing koan 17, “The National Teacher’s Three Calls” from the anthology of koans The Gateless Gate. This koan is referenced throughout.

7 Lines from the Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train (Raymond Chandler was given the writing credit, though not one of his words remain in the screenplay. These are not lines written by Raymond Chandler).

8 Hitchcock fired Chandler.

9 Patricia Highsmith explaining the characters in her first novel, Strangers on a Train, which was optioned (paid $7500) for a movie. When she found out the stranger who optioned it for cheap was the famous Alfred Hitchcock, she was pissed.

10 Hitchcock’s cameo appearance.

11 From the verse of koan 17.

12 Koan 17.