William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Diaries’

Black Thunder

Halfway through, I am haunted by Arna Bontemps’ Black Thunder. Knee-deep in mud, I am shaken by the roar, the clouds, the lightning, the rising streams. The shadows are alive. The horses scare me. Everything is an omen. I want to be free — as free as a bird, as free as Thomas Jefferson — free from the lash, free from the trunk of a tree. I pick your crops. […]

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Three Leaves

Near the old horse-drawn French plow, around which in spring the bluebells bloom, there is a tiny oak with three jagged yellow-orange leaves still firmly attached to its dark sturdy stem — its entire growth for the year. In all likelihood, a squirrel planted it there — a noble destiny from a forgotten meal; and a solemn joy to note, for someone who often cannot remember what he had for […]

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The Stranger’s Tale

One day, when his fire was still a bundle of sticks, his water ice, and his last crust gone, the weary beggar met a little bird on the road. “Fair one,” said he, “how do you manage so well, you who travel with only a few seeds in your stomach?” From a frosty bare branch the little bird answered, “Long ago, I learned a secret from a very old and […]

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Wildflowers

We may believe a cataclysmic end of our world can be prevented by the enlightened understanding of a few. But is it true? Evidence thus far suggests the possibility; but blindness and wishful thinking are such close cousins that even on the very precipice, truth may go unrecognized. In every age, we have witnessed the dangers of our abysmal ignorance, the masses raging toward some imagined desirable end, which has […]

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The Conjure-Man Dies

Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies is an interesting, entertaining, beautifully and concisely written detective novel set in 1930s Harlem. It’s spiced with psychology and suspense, humor, wit, and just the right amount of scientific, philosophical, and medical knowledge. Like his main character and sleuth, Dr. John Archer, it’s clear that Fisher — a physician himself in addition to being a gifted student and musician — was no mean observer. His […]

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Originality and Skill

One might write as well as, or better than, Emerson or Montaigne, and the sum of that writing be nothing more than an echo or derivative shadow. In any given moment, all it needs is a leap to be skyward or hell-bound. Either will do, as long as the sky and the hell are one’s own. November 19, 2020 . [ 934 ]

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Punch Line

In this wet and windy weather, it’s lucky the neighbor’s fir trees haven’t blown over and landed on our house. Day by day, the yard and roof are strewn with more branches. New gaps and sky-patches have appeared in the trees, which allow the wind to pass through them, and keep the trees from having to absorb its full impact. And as I gaze up at them and listen to […]

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The Mist and This

If I had not walked in the mist before dawn, I would not have heard the owl calling from the fir tree on this side of the wetland. And the land is wet, as were we. I need to explore the backyard, which has been transformed by the recent storms into a forest floor strewn with branches, cones, and leaves. There are fir branches six to eight feet long on […]

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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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