William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

How Do You Hold It?

Five in the morning. Seventy degrees. A light dew. Is there a way to separate memory from smell? It seems one is dry grass, and the other is ripening fruit. Shall we ask the toes? Is there anything they do not know?

Early morning watering. The humans are expecting temperatures today as high as one hundred seven degrees. The plants, though, show no sign of concern. Which should we believe? The birds, too, are singing from their favorite branches.

Eighty-one degrees. A visit, the first in many months, with G.H.W. He is eighty-five now, tanned from his morning walks in search of cans, and looking as good as, if not better than, I have ever seen him. When I told him so, he smiled and said, “I never expected to live this long, but I feel good.” He had two big bags of cans. Day by day, he’s cutting and stacking the wood from his ash tree, which was ruined by the ice storm. He thinks he has about three cords. “I thought maybe you had kicked the bucket. I was going to ask your wife if you’d had a stroke.” “No, I went out and got a new bucket.” “Your peppers are looking good.”

I let the hose drip all afternoon and through the night at the base of the vine. This morning the moisture had made a big circle. Now I’m doing the same with the apricot.

I carry water to the blueberry. The new mint is thriving. The old mint is thriving. It seems to like the close proximity of the cedar, the lowest branches of which are now giving it partial protection from the sun.

One hundred fifteen tomorrow? Is that possible? Some of the humans who are paid to make such predictions think so. I suppose counting degrees is like counting minutes: the counting is enough to make most humans feel sure the degrees and minutes exist, even though no one has ever held one. This reminds me of a passage from Richard Brautigan’s touching little masterpiece, In Watermelon Sugar:

. . . Fred had something strange-looking sticking out of the pocket of his overalls. I was curious about it. It looked like something I had never seen before.

“What’s that in your pocket, Fred?”

“I found it today coming through the woods and up from the Watermelon Works. I don’t know what it is myself. I’ve never seen anything like it before. What do you think it is?”

He took it out of his pocket and handed it to me. I didn’t know how to hold it. I tried to hold it like you would a flower and a rock at the same time.

“How do you hold it?” I said.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about it.” . . .

Such a simple, beautiful confession. How do you hold life? How do you hold something that is infinite, delicate, and always changing?

June 26, 2021


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