William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Mushrooms and Mildew

Mushrooms and mildew — so much mildew, it’s possible the mushrooms have mildew. The alyssum and dahlias in the front flowerbed are white with mildew. Even the lilac has mildew. But the peppers don’t. Neither do the apricot or fig. I have mildew, but thus far it affects only the cerebrum, so I’m not worried. Such fogs we’ve been having — dense, dripping fogs, street-blackening fogs, window-streaming fogs, leaf-shimmering fogs, all in the mildest of weather. And the mushrooms are not merely mushrooms: they meander down slopes and bubble like round stones in creek beds, showing the paths the rainwater took during the recent thunderstorms, thus mimicking the melting of glaciers. Such is life in the wilderness. Our little cabin, which the neighbors in their innocence think is an ordinary house on a typical residential street in what’s left of twenty-first century America, rejoices in the scene. Oh, yes, it’s aware of the mushrooms, aware of the crickets and mildew, and no detail escapes its attention.

There once was a wise man. Since he spoke simply and plainly about what seemed the most common and ordinary things, no one listened to him. Naturally, he didn’t mind. He understood that people wanted something more difficult: they wanted riddles and manifold paths, mystical words that could be taken in any way that suited them, with subtle, built-in excuses for failure to find a more enlightened way of living. Failure was the key. They insisted on believing that there were always obstacles between happiness and themselves. Fighting against these imagined obstacles made them heroes. They felt noble when they said, Nothing will stop me. I’ll get there someday. They refused to see that someday doesn’t exist, that enlightenment itself doesn’t exist, and that goals are really only meant for hockey teams and football players. They imagined themselves on some kind of path, and assumed that the path was leading them somewhere — to a new beginning, or to a beautiful end, was never quite clear. No one asked, What if there is no path? or, What if the path leads me to realize that there is no such thing as happiness, or that there is no need for it, or that happiness is of such a volatile, playful, ever-changing nature that it constantly recreates itself without ever knowing what it is, or that humans on some tiny faraway planet might be searching for it and believing it is vitally necessary to their wellbeing? Indeed, what if? In the meantime, the wise man didn’t complain. He ate right. He exercised. He did what was best for his health. He did these things partly for himself, because he liked to feel good. And he did them for his loved ones, and for everyone else. He even did them for the squirrels, birds, and clouds. He did them for no reason at all. And of course he wasn’t really a wise man. He was just someone who still lived and played and wondered as he did when he was a child. Finally, he died. Mildew had spread to every cell in his body. His mushrooms looked like bones.

October 5, 2020


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces

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