William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘The American Civil War’

Saved

The sound of rain. The blessèd certainty of it — think as I will, believe as I will, act as I will, the rain will fall on my grave, and that is a blessing too: a blessing to the stone, should I have one, a blessing to the soft green grass that grows over me. And for an epitaph, these two words will do: Listening. Still. May they describe you. […]

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William Wells Brown

The Library of America volume devoted to the writings of William Wells Brown begins with his 1847 Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave. I’ve read twenty-eight of its forty-five pages thus far. And while it has revealed no general detail about slavery that I haven’t already encountered, the simple, stark clarity of Brown’s writing, coupled with his frank honesty in terms of his personal regrets and easily forgiven […]

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Smoke and Quicksand

Yesterday afternoon, after reading several chapters of Nella Larsen’s novel, Quicksand, I had put the book aside to rest my eyes when a question came to mind: how long, I wondered, has it been since I would rather be doing something else? As I thought about this, the days, weeks, and months of my strange quiet life quickly gave way to years — so it is, at least, that long. […]

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Reply

Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, the second offering in the Library of America’s two-volume collection of nine Harlem Renaissance novels, is an outstanding, refreshing, exhilarating, musical work full of sweet longing and suspense, an artful record of the timeless love affair between pain and laughter in which each, mutually and gratefully dependent on the other, flowers and bleeds. The source of pain: American history, ignorance, hatred, prejudice. The source of […]

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Cane

Now that I’ve finished it, I hope I am able to remember Jean Toomer’s novel, Cane. It has been this way for a great many years. The books I read have a way of passing through me. I retain impressions and moods, and lose most of the details. But the deep, dark poem that is Cane, the story of it, the play, is mood, is impression, is nightmare, stirring and […]

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The Horizontal Life

Here in the time of yellowing maples and drifting leaves, the falls and streams are charged with new life by the recent thunderstorms. Numerous spiderwebs cross the path, so fine that one is not aware of them until they are broken in passing through; removed from around the forehead and eyes, parts still cling; or maybe it is the memory of their touch that has not quite died away. At […]

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A Threat to Security

In this country, if one isn’t descended from the land’s indigenous people, or from those who were brought here in chains and sold into slavery, then one is an immigrant, or, as I am, the descendant of immigrants. Many, of course, are a combination of one with another, and sometimes all three. And still there is hatred, still there is prejudice. “This land is your land, this land is my […]

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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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Water, Clear and Cold

The celebration of rain is past. The wind has changed. A great part of the moisture has been reclaimed by the sky gods. The air is smoky again. But it is not as smoky as before, at least here at ground level. Instead, there is a high haze thick enough to keep the sunny fall days several degrees cooler than they would be. One can feel the smoke. The robins […]

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Flames

Another Library of America book purchase: William Wells Brown: Clotel and Other Writings. Violence at Oregon’s state capitol — flags, baseball bats, guns. Only humans are intelligent enough to express themselves in this manner. High winds from the east. Smoke and ash. Fires raging in the Cascades. Widespread evacuations. Windows closed against the elements. Early morning. Here in the dark, one thinks of the birds. The cricket in the rhododendron […]

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