William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

The Juggler

Doing one thing at a time, doing it thoroughly, lovingly, and well, my thinking becomes less tangled. One thought doesn’t always lead to another. Often there’s a large space between it and the next. To me, what happens in that space, and the nature of that space itself, is more beautiful, vital, and important than anything I might accomplish by juggling away what’s left of the precious time that has been granted me.

August 31, 2021


The Juggler

The old calendar on my wall is accurate again. It’s for the year 2000, and features the artwork of Marc Chagall. The month of March shows a painting called The Juggler, completed in 1943. It is of a strange bird-like creature with muscular human legs, arms, and torso, a sharp beak, one large almond-shaped eye, and wings like that of an angel. The creature is balancing on its right foot. Its left leg is folded upward against the front of its body. The left foot is resting on its shoulder. A fiddler in the act of playing is superimposed on the right side of the body. The creature’s right arm is held out parallel to the bottom of the painting, and is draped with what looks like a stole with a clock in it. The clock reads 7:20. The edges of the stole are lined with beads. Beneath the stole are four tiny figures, people drawn from the waist up who appear to be leaning on the edge of a circus ring, looking on. There is a horse being ridden by a child under the folded leg. To the right of the horse is the head of a larger horse, beside which is a hand which might or might not be holding a small bunch of flowers. Leaning against the horse’s neck is a ghostly figure wearing a black hooded garment. Just beneath the left wing, in the upper right-hand corner of the painting, is a young woman sitting on a swing, her long wedding veil hanging behind her. And in the upper left-hand corner is a small bald head, the top of which is butted up against the left side of the painting.

The painting is colorful and interesting, but the truth is, I have never really liked it. Who knows? Maybe it reminds me of myself, acting helplessly in a dream, juggling time, death, and work in the desperate hope to keep them suspended — drop one, the crowd sighs; drop two, the curtain falls; drop three, silence and the void.

I would rather be the fiddler, and go down fiddling at a wedding or a dance. I would rather look up with my dying breath into the eyes of people who loved my music.

I would rather be the horse with the child on its back. I would rather be loved and brushed by the child on a warm summer day. I would rather speak to her with my mournful horse’s eyes, and tell her about the wild memory in my blood. She would understand. I know she would.

Songs and Letters, March 16, 2006


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces, Songs and Letters

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