William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

On the Precipice

Little by little, the ocean is breathing life into the valley. The air is still dangerous to breathe, but now it contains far more moisture, which is helping to slow the spread of the fires. Yesterday afternoon, there was a lot more bird and squirrel activity — the birds bathing, splashing, and scratching for seeds and worms, the squirrels with nuts in their mouths, scurrying along the fence tops. Humans are almost wholly absent from the local residential scene, even more so than when everything was shut down to keep from spreading the virus. Then it was safe to be outside. Now it is not. Wearing a mask to get the mail, to keep the tender plants alive, and to pick what’s left of this year’s tomatoes, lends a new aspect to such simple, regular activities. It is what it is. It will last as long as it lasts. We remain fortunate, in that we have not been evacuated. We live the days as fully and with as much appreciation and gratitude as we can, knowing well that in the end, everything we have, including our lives — everything we treasure, will be given. Not one thing will we take with us. No burden will we bear. And in truth, this is the way we live today. We hate no one. We criticize no one. We are angry with no one. We are superior to no one. We do feel tenderly for those who, even on the precipice, are consumed by such feelings, those who spend their precious days making accusations, shaking their fists, and pointing their fingers in blame. Based on fact or not, the result is the same, a paralyzed sensitivity to beauty. For even being right comes at a very high cost. The world as we know it is constantly ending. And even if it is being entirely swept away, rather than helping to hasten that end, I would rather see as much beauty in the cataclysm as I can. We speak of rights; I do not see anger as one that I have. For me, anger is not a right, it is a choice. I have lived both ways. I have made mine. I have witnessed and listened to angry people all of my life. Looking upon my own anger, I can see quite clearly what has come of it: division, poverty, climate change, cruelty, war. How, then, could I feel righteous? How could I feel right? Rights are for children who do not know how to behave. Were we to love — truly love — the very concept of rights would become useless and melt away.

September 13, 2020


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