William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

The Horizontal Life

Here in the time of yellowing maples and drifting leaves, the falls and streams are charged with new life by the recent thunderstorms. Numerous spiderwebs cross the path, so fine that one is not aware of them until they are broken in passing through; removed from around the forehead and eyes, parts still cling; or maybe it is the memory of their touch that has not quite died away. At this early hour, hardly anyone is out. A young woman wearing a bright-red bandana over her nose and mouth asks if we belong to the “work party.” It is nice to be thought capable of trail work, and to be seen as someone who would volunteer. Further on, we notice several trees are down; where they landed on the path, they have already been cut to clear the way. This work, though, appears to be several weeks old. From here on, the fallen trees will lead a horizontal life, nourishing the forest floor, season by season becoming more deeply immersed in their dreams. Theirs will be a long, sweet sleep. We walk four miles and meet no one else, until we are very near the end of our hike, when a group of five or six people emerge from the deep recess behind North Falls. We step off the path to make room. No words are exchanged. The water thundering on the rocks below, speaks for us all.

We have a good supply of fruit in the house, some fresh, some dried. Dried: dates, prunes, raisins, mangoes. Fresh: pomegranate, two kinds of persimmon, two kinds of pear, three kinds of apple. Lemons. It is not quite orange-time. I should also account for the nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews. Sunflower seeds. Several pounds of freshly ground peanut butter. A corresponding amount of honey. I will not list the grains or the vegetables, the lentils or beans. Olive oil. Apple cider vinegar. Where, among all of these things, can one go wrong? If one is looking for trouble, it is most easily found among the spices.

Yesterday afternoon, I moved several potted plants into the garage to keep them from freezing. The philodendrons, I have already moved into the house. Today I will bring in the lacy fern, which has grown up and wound itself around the hook that holds the bamboo wind chime. It will be a ticklish job; I am sure my hair and beard will be involved, and might even play an important role. After this early frost threat passes, I hope to move the jade plants back outside for a while. Like most of us, they are happier outside than in. Wandering Jew: Tradescantia zebrina. A few weeks ago, ours had two or three blooms. The Wandering Jew: a novel written in the nineteenth century by French author, Eugène Sue. There is an agreeably battered two-volume English translation of the work somewhere in this room. Published by Thomas Crowell, I think.

I forgot to mention the lichens along the path, and the mushrooms as big as clowns’ ears.

Sometimes one writes something that many find interesting. Sometimes one writes something that many find dull. Sometimes one writes something that makes him wonder why he writes it at all. Sometimes it may seem he did not write it; sometimes it may seem that he is not yet, or that he is no longer, himself; it may even seem that he only thought he was writing, while at that very moment his friends and loved ones are attending his funeral. The truth is, he does not know. Go west, young man — as if Greeley knew. You remember Greeley: he stirred up all sorts of trouble for Abraham Lincoln, and tried to run the country from his editorial office at the New York Tribune. But Greeley was no match for Lincoln, who, on more than one occasion, must have felt Greeley had all the attributes of a pesky fly. And who knows where flies have been? To the west and back, to the north and south, all within the space of his room — which is to say, too far, and not far enough, too late, and too soon.

October 21, 2020


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces

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