William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

The Enigmatic Child

Maybe you really can make something of yourself, as the time-worn advice goes, or threat, or promise, or admonition, depending on who says it or thinks it and under what circumstances, including you and your own. Maybe you really can become something or someone, a person worthy of respect, and on, and on, and on. I don’t know. It all seems rather strange to me. In a way, isn’t it a lot like saying you are nothing and no one to begin with, when, in truth, you are already something and someone the moment you are born, and after, and even before? and that you can never be more than you are, with your own peculiar wiring and routing of codes, a universal flesh-and-bone receiver with a blood-thud battery heart? At various frequencies, you light up like the stars. Sometimes you are a veritable rainbow. Always, though, always, you are an enigmatic child.


The Enigmatic Child



The enigmatic child born, winking, full of light

is a father in miniature, a mother in kind

an eruption of stars upon the trodden path

a jubilant expression of problematic survival

a volatile grain of earth stranded in fissured rock

a messenger of mad brotherhood and sisterhood

graceful, unbending, moving, knowing, ignorant, wise

blind as a soft petal, fragrantly veiled by seductive health

murdered of its numb surreal past and its revolution in the womb

delivered from its ancient mariner’s language and volcanic warmth

into the abysmal stupidity of accumulated knowledge

the stolid certainty of dammed rivers and subdued continents

where great herds of blind creatures in contentment graze

goes forth the teacher, the singer, the carpenter, or poet

returns the thief, liar, or crucified genius of his time

stunned by the miracle of himself, drunk beneath the bow

lustful, insistent, preoccupied, arrogant, hungry, gentle, kind

a seer of noble passions ruled by inherited values

one shoulder against time, the other an angry mate’s rebuff

of the mutual plundering of surrendered, forbidden senses

oceanic, earthbound, airborne, solemn, mercilessly alone

five fingers upon each hand, five toes upon the foot

wandering to and fro and back again, weary, errant, despised

object of jealous riddance hoarded and preserved

roasted over flame, relieved of bone, a remnant of distraction

proclaimed in satisfied accomplishment for the record

we the people, being of sound mind and body

do hereby bequeath this momentarily appropriated heaven

in styled increments according to your predetermined worth

all rise before you descend, crushed by the ungrateful weight

of our divine, resplendent, unfathomable love

we give you this day your daily bread

and bid you joyous welcome.



It is not I, or you, the child replied in warning

nor when, or who, but the very firmament that brings me here

a troubled mourner banished from another realm

nor any worm dreaming sanely in the warmly crusted earth

you so foolishly ignore, but an answer to my mother’s breast

revealed while she is here, to my father’s paralyzing dream-desire

while he is here, to their misunderstood quest while they are here

nor any drifting thought-cloud of omniscient passion or displeasure

trimmed wick of reason, dry river bed, tamed forest, or shrill night-call

that passes over nameless graves polluted by the riven and the shorn

silent in translation, devoid of meaning, speechless in unbecoming dumb

nor vaguely documented unproof repeated and passed down

or well traveled road withered by a pilgrim’s stern, demented gaze

but a sweet expression of holy madness, the logic of undeniable life

the sorrow and torture of regret, the unawaited, unexpected, unimagined

recurrence of that which is good, and which springs eternal

not I, or you, yet as powerfully victorious, pathetic, and inevitable

nor when, or who, but anxious with helplessness and remorse

an open door, a tavern heaving with revelers at dawn, a ship on the horizon

suspended between meadowed home and dismal yon

brave Odysseus counting sighs, rubbing balm on blistered hands

repenting darkness to laugh again and shed his bitter tears

to try again though it be certain folly, to believe again in the simplest

reasons and notions, to speak his name again as if it held meaning

as if the mountains were young again and the gods had descended

as if the arrow through his bleeding heart had only now arrived

as if the breeze that had borne him here had not forever died

these and a thousand other gloried forgottens and unknowns

that sleep behind his roaring eyes, his ears cupped to ocean’s sound,

the shell of his battered heart a lipless, unbellowed horn

while all else in exalted dim sobriety waits, gathers in a mist of minds

binding self to raging self like a chain of undiscovered islands

where I wait and forever bide my time.

Collected Poems, 2003



I’ve wondered about this poem for many years now. I’ve liked it, and I’ve not liked it. I’ve thought it too long. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it either? Does it matter? I really don’t know. And so I’ve let it stay hidden. Then, this morning, as I was writing the lines that precede it, it suddenly sprang to mind again. I thought, Well, the paragraph itself says it all. But what about the poem? Maybe it’s really meant to be a footnote — unread, like this one, except by you.

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Categories: Collected Poems

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