William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Poems, Slightly Used

Winter Trees

“The bird names have trapped me. They exist in a realm of unsolvable mysteries: the realm of nothing more than connotation. And yet I want to know what the bird behind each looks like. Why? I shouldn’t care.”   Winter Trees † Feline huntress, dozing on the grass. Along the fence, a cortège of wary sparrows, each dark face a funeral card. On my lips, imagined bird names:                            Shwittl, Tikipap, […]

Continue Reading →

Sunday’s Child

At long last I can say I have read Leaves of Grass — every word, in the poet’s final edition. I can also say that I have read each poem aloud, phrase by phrase, line by line, slowly, patiently, thoughtfully, carefully listening all the while. I had read Walt Whitman before. I had read his 1855 first edition, and many of his poems at random. And about fifteen years ago, […]

Continue Reading →

The Trick

It’s a wonderful occupation, this search for the ordinary, knowing it can never be found. Sixteen days have passed since I noticed a fallen birch leaf riding piggyback on a fig leaf still attached to the tree. The fig leaf is yellower now and with pronounced reddish veins. And the birch leaf, having lost most of its color and diminished in size, remains right where it was. November 6, 2019 […]

Continue Reading →

Afternoon Nap

You love this mirage, this idea of yourself looking out on the world, when, all the while, the world is within you. And you love the sanctity of what you imagine is your private space, when that same space is outside you. And if what is outside is in, and what is inside is out, where are you, and what are you? Just what becomes of the who of you? […]

Continue Reading →

Escape is a Cage

What is it that keeps me saying what I’ve already said? Self-love, perhaps? Indifference? Ignorance? Or is there simply a birdsong mechanism deep in my heart or throat, the purpose of which is to express a prehistoric loss or need? And yet, for the life of me, if I’ve lost something, I don’t know or remember what it is. And what could I, fortunate as I am to perceive such […]

Continue Reading →

Scene from a Recurring Childhood

If my age is equivalent to the number of times the earth has traveled around the sun since I was born, how old would I be if I lived on another planet, or in another galaxy, or in another universe altogether? And isn’t this what I already do? The degree to which I resist things as they are — that might be a more accurate rendering of my age. The […]

Continue Reading →

Front Walk

In his journal, Emerson writes of walking with Hawthorne, talking with Thoreau, Carlyle’s latest book, and Tennyson’s new poems. In mine, I write of you, in terms of my own plain self. And this is our wealth: that we are each a funny blend of science and superstition, of pain, nerve, and luck. And this is our grief — the loss of dear Waldo, Emerson’s five-year-old son. August 4, 2019 […]

Continue Reading →

My Second Language

Oh, the things I break into dazzling little pieces. Oh, the faith you have in rainbows. “Love Story” Poems, Slightly Used, February 3, 2011   My Second Language English is my second language, Earth my mother tongue. Near a wild rose on a goat track, An avalanche of sun. A blind afternoon, Guessing about love. I said, “The map is torn.” You said, “Yes. But not ruined.” [ 446 ]

Continue Reading →