William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Into a Strange Land

This poem is from Volume 3 of Songs and Letters and was written in 2005. There are twenty-four volumes in all. Back then, I did my writing at an old kitchen table from my childhood home. Our youngest son has it now. Since 2009, I’ve been using my mother’s old desk. If I remember correctly, she bought it from a retired school teacher who lived in the next town, about eight miles from our home in the San Joaquin Valley. It has a typewriter shelf that pulls up and out, from a deep interior space which I have always called a typewriter well. I have no idea if that term is used by anyone else. The poem subsequently appeared in Recently Banned Literature in 2009, and was shared again on Facebook about a year ago.

 

Into a Strange Land

All around me,
the natives
are breaking words
against battered
anvil-rocks.

The dust of syllables
is in their eyes and hair;
even the children
are yellowed by it
and old.

Poor graceful
creatures they are,
strangled by shades
of meaning.

I love them,
love them all.

Over the land
there runs a network
of gleaming rails.

On the rails
rugged cars loaded
with the detritus
of their craft
are sent chugging
to mills on the horizon.

Inside the mills,
the bits of words
are ground into
a fine paste,
then treated with
a strange compound,
Knowledge.

The paste is then
poured into molds,
where it dries
until it hardens
into sturdy
weightless blocks,
which are used
to make buildings
that hold dreams.

The buildings
are scattered all over
this strange land.

There are as many,
almost, as the people
who raise them.

Many of the dreams
wither and die.

Only a few survive.

They are the most
beautiful things
I have ever seen.

Songs and Letters, November 20, 2005

Categories: Songs and Letters

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