William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

New Poems & Pieces

Emerson, Thoreau, and a Compost Pile

In addition to the Harlem Renaissance novels and Thoreau’s journal, I have begun reading the two-volume edition of Emerson’s journal published ten years ago by the Library of America. Reading Emerson’s words aloud, as I do Thoreau’s, is more than a daily exercise in tongue and skill; the vibrations in my chest and skull create a conversational, dreamlike, philosophical intimacy that makes me feel we are together in the same […]

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Copper Rain

More than halfway through, I’m not quite sure how I feel about George Schuyler’s satirical novel, Black No More. It’s certainly not without humor, and not without a large measure of truth. In the clever guise of science fiction, it is, in effect, a witty, sharply drawn editorial cartoon on American race relations. That I find the bitter edge of its caricature unappealing, says as much about me as it […]

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Storm Poem

From midnight on, the house has been pelted with branches and cones.Their clatters and clunks sound like a roofing crew. Such is November in the ark.Will Ararat be visible come daylight? Or will it be leveled by the flood?O, wind! O, rain! Wash this blood from the breast of the dove! November 13, 2020 . [ 929 ]

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Almost Winter

Once inside and away from the chilly weather, the jade plants in their big clay pots turned quickly to face the tall south window. The glass is cool this time of year, as the fairy tale sunlight calls to them through the open wooden blinds. The smaller of the two pots holds three plants made from cuttings several years ago, taken from my mother’s twenty-year-old plant, the trunk of which […]

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6/8 Time

A brightly marked thrush is trying hard to clean its beak against the firm mud at the edge of the frozen dahlia bed, stopping now and again to look up at me through the window, or when it is distracted by bits of food. I wonder how much soil it takes in along with the worms it consumes, and if it notices the varying tastes of clay and silt and […]

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For You, Love

You will forgive an old man, won’t you, his worn out poems, like shoes, by the door? Twenty-six degrees. An all-night freeze. The early morning sunlight upon the frosted fig leaves is causing them to fall in yellow clumps and bunches, their soft rattle audible through the partly open window. And the living, breathing orchard floor, inches deep with hands and stems, made in timely session by a single tree, […]

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Canvas 468 — Not Without Laughter

Langston Hughes’ll cure your blues — give em to you too. Say you don’t want em?but you do — you do, like all the boys and girls. Greasy cold fish sandwich,box a crackerjacks — his trumpet and his banjo’ll cut you through and through. Twister blew his front porch then set it in a field — kingdom of a front porch,flat dab in that field. Blew his door off like […]

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The Blacker the Berry

This bright frosty morning, the world smells like a million lonely breakfasts. “November Postcard” Songs and Letters, November 15, 2008 . The Blacker the Berry You’re too dark. You’re too light. You’re the wrong shade of brown. So it goes, from Boise to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles to Harlem, in the sad story of the very black Emma Lou Morgan, as plainly, painfully, and artfully told by Wallace Thurman. […]

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In Session

Around Salem, the size and number of homeless encampments have grown dramatically, and of late, with winter coming on, the process has accelerated. Homeless people appear now in places they were rarely or never seen before — in neighborhoods, walking along quiet roadsides, watching, resting, and waiting in the relative safety and privacy of brambles and brush and small stands of trees. Where there is one makeshift tent, others soon […]

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