William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Under Our Hats

I found an ancient pair of worn out jeans and cut them off a little above the knee. I’m wearing them now. I wore them early this morning while working barefoot in the garden and watering our assorted plantings and pots. Dirt, water, sun — childhood.

We bought half a crate of strawberries yesterday. They’re called “Ruby June.”

For whatever lucky reason, I’ve had more close-up meetings with birds. As I turned towards the birdbath with a trickling hose, I was met with the friendly upward gaze of a chickadee cooling itself in the water. Three feet was its limit. It flew up to a birch branch while I refilled and freshened its bath. Next were three robins, which swooped in and landed just overhead in the fir and chirped at me until I moved a few feet away. And then this morning I was inspected from close range by another hummingbird, which, between glances, sampled some of our flowers. I’ve read that hummingbirds remember faces.

My father died in the hospital in our old hometown on this day twenty-six years ago. Now the hospital, too, is gone.

June 2, 2021


Under Our Hats

If you pass by my window now and glance this way, you’ll see the top of the new straw hat I’m wearing. Why am I wearing it inside? Because it is new, and because hats should be worn. Because I’m nuts. Because every now and then I like to write with a hat on. Because I like hats. Because I’m partial to them. Because they remind me of other hats — my father’s, his father’s, my uncles’, my grandmother’s. Walt Whitman’s.

This particular hat cost seven dollars. About forty years ago, my father bought me one very much like it for eighty-nine cents at a little corner grocery store not far from where we lived. The store was owned by a man named Nakashima, whose wife once cut off the end of her finger while slicing baloney. I say once, but she could hardly have done it twice.

Ours was a farming community. The weather was hot. Hats were important and easy to come by. We lived under our hats. We dreamed under them, cursed under them, talked under them, planned under them, hurt under them, hoped under them, sighed under them, dozed under them, decided under them, quit under them, started under them, apologized under them, begged under them, lied under them, cheated under them, kissed our wives and girlfriends and children under them, disappointed each other under them, left home and never returned under them, listened to the birds in the trees under them, yelled under them, cried under them, got drunk under them, confessed under them, lost our minds under them, and some of us even died under them.

We also waited under them. We waited for trains, for buses, for airplanes, for loved ones, for insight, for babies alive and growing in the womb. We waited for the noon whistle and the Raisin Day Parade. We waited for rain, for wind, for any meaningful new sign. We waited for our pay. We waited for the war to end. We waited for things to change, but some never did.

We knocked on doors under them. Won’t you let me in?

A hat is a church, my friend.

Songs and Letters, July 21, 2008


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces, Songs and Letters

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