William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings


My first paying job away from the farm was picking grapes on the neighbor’s place immediately west of ours. I was twelve. I worked with the neighbor’s double-jointed son, who was the same age. We did that for two seasons. It was hot, dirty, and dangerous. The danger was from two sources: black widow spiders and yellow jackets. One year, in the space of three days, I killed thirty-four black widows. They crawled out of bunches, over my shoes, and out of my grape pan. The neighbor’s son could clasp his hands together and move his arms over his head all the way to his waist behind him. If his arms had been long enough, he could have used them as a jump-rope. He died several years ago. Having grown up together, worked together, played and ridden bikes and the school bus together, his departure gave me pause. His was not a lucky life. It was ruined early on by drugs. I still have some letters from him, rambling, insane tracts that go on for twenty pages and more. Written on both sides of less-than-pristine yellow lined paper, they were a challenge to read and impossible to answer. But no answer was needed. He answered them himself with more letters. In a way, that is what I do now. Mine are shorter, though.

December 4, 2020


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces

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