William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings


The paint is peeling on a two-story house I walk by every day. The window frames are in rough condition, and many of the slats in their decorative shutters are missing or have settled at odd angles. The double door in front is scarred and worn. The man who lives there is in the same condition. We’ve met a few times as I was passing and he was rolling out his garbage can or bringing in his mail. He has enough to eat, but his diet doesn’t agree with him and is taking its toll. And he has enough to think, but his thoughts don’t agree with him, and are taking their toll. I have greeted him in a quiet, friendly way, and have received little or no response. There is a bumper sticker on one of his vehicles that indicates national pride and a belief in war. I’m sure he has known his share of tragedy and loss. As a child, he may have had a bicycle and a toy gun. In all likelihood, he received a beating. As he is a stranger to himself, I am a stranger to him — a familiar stranger, someone he has no desire to know. He might feel differently, though, if I were a tree, or an amiable old hound. The truth is, I am both, but he doesn’t see me that way. I’m not sure what he sees — a hippie, perhaps, with what he imagines are destructive, liberal tendencies. Or maybe he likes me, but is afraid to let me know. Maybe he has been betrayed before — tricked and sold and sold again, as the poet Carl Sandburg says in “The People, Yes.” He might be surprised to find out I was a farmer once, and that I drove a tractor down the main street of our hometown to take a piece of equipment to Voyle’s welding shop, and that by then the welder we used to call on, Floyd Weaver — or was it Lloyd? — was either retired or dead, I don’t remember which. Dirt and sweat and gasoline fumes. I was one of the people too, I guess.


Over the farm equipment show,
and the lot where old oaks once had been,
clouds, but no rain : clouds, that in their color
pass as dust : dust, and a mournful breakfast scent
from the edge of town : town, where the first
early haircut is done, the slap of lotion
on : on, in a truck that smells like
last year’s straw : straw,
or a barn floor bed
with your girl

Recently Banned Literature, April 5, 2014
Twelve Poems, Poets International

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Categories: New Poems & Pieces, Recently Banned Literature

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