William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Songs and Letters

Grief’s Exile

Our family library contains more than books. It contains cousins, uncles, and a wealth of secret, sacred knowledge which would be comical to some, useless to most, and inspiring, if not dangerous, to eager, impressionable young minds. For it was this knowledge, embodied in these living examples, that made me want to be a writer long before I knew the real meaning of the word. Dangerous? Oh, yes, when one […]

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Bridge Across the Bay

My mother’s mother was the daughter of Henry and Eliza. Saying so is a bit like imagining lines between stars that twinkle brightly some nights, less so on others. But even when it’s cloudy, I know they are there. . Bridge Across the Bay When she was twelve, my mother’s mother rode a horse into the rugged mining town of Bodie, California, to get supplies. When she was fourteen, she […]

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Village Song

Sweet sadness, I will never turn my back on thee. . Village Song I have been long away But now I’m coming home Bright gold in my pocket A new bride on my arm. Come to the door, Mother, Is Father in the field? Come to the door, Mother, Is Father in the field? We climb the old stone steps To where my mother lay In a bed of flowers […]

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James Joyce Singing

James Joyce is an experience. I’ve read him in English. I’ve read him in Gibberish. I’ve even read him in Armenian. In Finnegans Wake he made use of sixty languages. I read the entire work aloud. I did the same with Ulysses. I’ve been in Jerusalem. I’ve been in Paris. But my tongue has really been around. . James Joyce Singing Like his wife, I can only understand him when […]

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Letter to a Friend

Again, in preserving some of these older pieces, I find I must be willing to overlook what I feel are certain obvious weaknesses. In the present case, I do it for memory’s sake, and for its biographical and autobiographical value. My friend’s death when we were eighteen, the time that led up to it and which immediately followed, I count as one of the saddest, most fortunate experiences of my […]

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Highway 99, San Joaquin Valley, California

In this entry from Songs and Letters, I wrote about my growing-up place as it was — or, perhaps more accurately, as I was, and am, except for a thousand changes mean and profound, down to the sound of my voice and the rhythm of my worn out shoes. . Highway 99, San Joaquin Valley, California In the old times, before roads and barns and dams and ditches, a giant […]

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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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The Fall of the Ten Thousand

Imagine living in a society that values business and entertainment more than it does the health, safety, education, and welfare of all of its members. Imagine living in a society that despoils the environment in favor of comfort and monetary gain, while shunning the sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Imagine a society that glorifies violence and war, and regards people of different backgrounds and customs as evil or unclean. […]

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Long Gray Train (I Pay the Porter)

I woke up in the middle of the night needing a sip of water. I walked down the hall, and as I passed through the dark sitting room, a sentence sprang to mind, or the beginning of a sentence — a phrase, a breath, a sound, a combination of sounds — a powerful suggestion, insistent, dreamlike, meaningful, profound, but I didn’t have the focus to pick up a pen and […]

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The Overcoat

Shall I insert a novel here, as Balzac might have done? Or go off on a vast historical tangent, as Hugo did in Les Misérables? I could even become repetitively religious like Tolstoy — but I should probably save that for my old age, in case I live that long. Cognac and a fine cigar, then a stroll à la Maupassant, along the boulevard, where everything is so beautiful, ironic, and […]

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