William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Proud Old Men In a Row

More snow during the night — about an inch, maybe a little less. Thirty degrees on the front step; barefoot down to the end of the driveway, and then back up, possibly a little colder. Still, relatively speaking, the weather is mild. Real cold — Solzhenitsyn’s cold and Jack London’s cold — is not a joke. It is not to be trifled with. It’s easy to walk barefoot outside for a minute or two knowing you can come back into a warm house. It’s easy to finish a warm shower with two or three minutes of cold water, as I did this morning, knowing one can dry off in a heated room. It’s easy, knowing your family is well and that they have food.

December 27, 2021


Proud Old Men In a Row

Twenty-six again this morning. I do like to look back at the weather records, probably because it’s something my father used to do, and partly too because memory is so unreliable when it comes to weather extremes. A couple of days ago, for instance, I noticed the record low was eight degrees, set in 2013. On yesterday’s date in 1972, it was minus-five. One forgets these things. Something one doesn’t forget, though, is the long hours spent pruning our vineyards and orchards during the winter months. We worked in the cold, we worked in the thick San Joaquin Valley fog, listening to the rhythm of our shears as their hum moved up through the handles and into our hands, every sound magnified, a sneeze or a laugh from the neighbor’s vineyard, the almost-sound of someone’s far-off transistor radio. All of December. All of January. Most or all of February. Sometimes even into March. The work changes you. The cold changes you. And everywhere you turn, frozen sculpture. Vine stumps revealed, looking like proud old men in a row. And you recognize them. Planted by your father. Planted by his father. Shaggy with bark. Like them. And what have you become? What are you now? Are you still fruitful? Do lizards and horned toads still congregate at your feet? Ha! You think I’m crazy, don’t you. Well, you would be too.

Recently Banned Literature, December 10, 2017


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Categories: New Poems & Pieces, Recently Banned Literature

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