William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

The Living and the Dead

Sometimes, when the bow is not taut, the arrow flies much farther.

The Living and the Dead

A pair of starlings are feasting on something in the maple tree outside my window. The tree has just begun to bloom. Its larger branches are covered with moss, some of it old, much of it new. The birds have found something to eat in the moss — newly hatched insects, or perhaps the moss itself is what interests them, or the moisture clinging to it after a trace of rain. The starlings are jumping from branch to branch and working quickly with their beaks, in the process dislodging tiny bits of debris.

In another maple just a few feet away, there are two bright-blue scrub jays. They are looking, but not eating — different requirements, I suppose, different interests determined by nature and instinct. Maybe they have already eaten, stopped off at a bird diner, had their coffee, read the Daily Bird Digest, perused the classifieds under the headings of Worms, Bugs, and Mates Wanted, studied the new article on nesting materials and found it no different than last year’s article, thanked the waitress with her feathers in disarray, left her a tip, and wandered out into the morning air, ready at last to face the day ahead.

Life is for the birds. It is also for small children just waking from their naps, and for larger children testing the limits of their muscles and their nerves. It is for mothers and fathers tired but still amazed, for those grown old, and for the warm earth filled with graves, a maze of names obliterated and insane, blessed, cursed, each generation rearranged — and still they come, the living and the dead, to be forgotten and misunderstood, to gain victory and be denied, to fail, to learn, to love, to be cut down and to rise again.

The birds have flown,
and will fly again.

The trees and I
are that much older.

They know not my name,
or the places I have been.

They are content to wait,
but see, see what comes to them.

Songs and Letters, April 5, 2006

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Categories: Songs and Letters

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