William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘The San Joaquin Valley’

The King’s English

When I was about ten or twelve, I had a ten-gallon aquarium. In it were zebra fish, little darting neons, tetras, a sword fish, an angel fish, a scavenger, and a bright and very friendly silver dollar — these were their names, at least as I recall them. The angel fish and silver dollar were small when we brought them home, but they grew rapidly, the angel fish becoming stately […]

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Troonk and Hamph

Among other things, in his journal entry for May 25, 1852, Thoreau mentions hearing the first troonk of a bullfrog — a lovely word, although I have for years spelled the sound hamph — this based on my recurring basso profondo imitation of bullfrogs heard while drifting with my father in his twelve-foot aluminum boat down California’s Kings River, in that lazy stretch below the town of Reedley where it […]

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Chorus

More than anything, it seems I write in terms of surprise — that yesterday was not my last chance, or this morning, or an hour ago — that I am here at all — that I am still here, that I ever was here, without really knowing what here is, or why, or how. And it might well be that this condition, this outlook — this disease if you prefer […]

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Main Street

I remember from my boyhood a man in the old hometown who had survived a tragic car accident, and whose face was disfigured beyond recognition, having been reconstructed by the doctors into a featureless, expressionless mask. In the barbershop one day, the first time I saw him, I watched from my place high in the third chair as he entered and exchanged friendly greetings with several men waiting who apparently […]

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The Old Road

One Hand Clapping February 2004

Who knows why, but this morning I find myself thinking about jackrabbits, vineyards, and dust. These are but a few significant emblems of my childhood, which, rather than ending, gradually became the insanity I labor under today. Polliwogs, crawdads, slow-moving mossy water. The sound of our tractor in the distance, the tractor and my father pursued by a cloud of blackbirds looking for bugs, seeds, and worms. As I look […]

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My Father Walking, and Twenty-Four Other Things

It occurred to me recently that I walked more than a thousand miles in the immediate neighborhood during the past year, and several hundred more on state park trails — in terms of sheer distance, roughly halfway across the continent. This is hardly a profound realization. But though it was made in small increments, the journey itself was far from mundane. And a journey it remains. Another year and I […]

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Shadows on the Sidewalk

For sidewalk, Walt Whitman liked to use the word trottoir. Offhand, I can think of no other nineteenth century American writer who did so — this, of course, based on my faulty memory and limited reading. Word choice aside, one thing I’m noticing this time through his Specimen Days, is that buildings and trains are every bit as alive to him as oaks and sparrows — indeed, in his poetic […]

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When I Stand

Closing out this quiet round of winter record-keeping, the present offering follows “So Many Angels” and “Between the Ivy and the Big Rhododendron.” I wonder what the old cemetery looks like now, and if it remembers me. A crazy question, I guess. Of course it does.   When I Stand When I stand, I marvel at the almost-feeling where my appendix used to be. It’s as if its ancient forgotten […]

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I Am Redeemed

I would rather spend the day in a country graveyard than in a shopping mall. Is that so strange? I would rather handle old books and antiques than plastic merchandise. Does that make me odd? Is it obsolete to think the finest jewels are raindrops hanging from a naked limb? And that if there ever was, is, or will be a god, she is here to love me back again? […]

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A Thimbleful of Ash

My mother writing Christmas cards, late into the night. The darkest time. The greatest light. December 6, 2019   A Thimbleful of Ash If you don’t eat your supper, Santa won’t visit us tonight. All the cookies will go to waste, the cards, the toys, the bows. A fire in the fireplace. The front door left unlocked. Somehow, Santa knows. On the porch, a stack of wood. Long lives, a […]

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