William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Songs and Letters


Not that many days ago, I was nearly finished with my evening walk when, at the foot of a driveway of a house for sale, I was met with a single bark by a shaggy, two-toned spaniel. At the same time, I noticed a man occupied at some task behind, and mostly obscured by, an old white pickup. I greeted the dog and bent down to let it sniff the […]

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When I cut off the old fronds of the ferns, mold is my reward. Later, I celebrate with double and triple sneezes, violent enough to rattle the dishes. In the center of the mound, the new fronds are unfurling, prehistoric, hairy, and willing. I find treasure therein — needles, twigs, and shells; fir and filbert sprouts. The Creeping Jenny is rampant under the white birch. If not trimmed a bit, […]

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Together, Alone

Beautiful, singing words — somehow you end up stacked like bricks. “Poet’s Lament” Songs and Letters, October 13, 2008   Together, Alone As deep as a worm, as radical as a plow. May it serve as a proverb for now. A church and its graveyard, at the convergence of roads. A cart ’neath an oak, in the hollow of a palm. A poet with a shovel, near the end of […]

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Word of Mouth

Earthquakes, volcanoes, and Man — Too much yeast, God said. “Judgment Day” Songs and Letters, April 25, 2008   Word of Mouth Someone who lives well west of us, in the first row of houses overlooking the river, said that the recent high water rose into her yard, but did not reach her house. When the water receded, it left behind all manner of filth from the homeless encampment that […]

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Love Letter to the Universe

A letter arrives which you eagerly answer. But the sender needs no reply. So you turn the words you have written. And you burn them on the other side.   Love Letter to the Universe I was going to write this letter a century ago, but I wasn’t born yet, so I didn’t. I had to wait instead. Finally, when my impatience got the best of me, I was born, […]

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As Much Love

The rude, crude person who grates on your nerves, and who, perhaps, has even entered your family circle like a bull in a china shop — what are you to make of him? How are you to survive the onslaught of his ignorant, opinionated noise, and the upheaval he brings to your digestion? You cannot avoid him, and you certainly cannot change him, nor would you try. You take a […]

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The Day I Photographed Lincoln

Immersed as I have been in the humble, candid, beautifully written memoirs and letters of the great Civil War generals Grant and Sherman, it would be odd indeed if this old poem of mine did not come to mind. And then there is the biographical, historical masterwork by Carl Sandburg, the six-volume Abraham Lincoln, given us in two parts: the two-volume Prairie Years, and the four-volume War Years. Sandburg, born […]

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My Next Life

High upon my crooked ladder, cloud in one hand, sun in the other. “Balancing Act” Poems, Slightly Used, May 24, 2009   My Next Life In my next life I will paint houses for a living. I will dip my brush in a quiet field beside a stream, and work from the roots of my imagining. I will paint not as houses are, but as they will someday be, families […]

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Shall We Go See the Old Man?

How many people I had been before this poem was written, how many I was during the sustained moment of its composition, how many immediately upon its completion, how many I have been since then, how many I am now, and how many I will be if I survive this unwieldy sentence, all while being who I am in any recognizable, cohesive sense, is, I imagine, at least partly answered […]

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