William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘The San Joaquin Valley’

Remember Me

Another gentle bend in the road leading nowhere. . All things testify according to their natural, light-given truth: leaves, twigs, meadows, and birds, wild streams and errant tufts of fur, dry weeds whispering remember me, baked crust of aromatic earth. I nod to the mossy water conversing fortuitously in a ditch, push back my hat, scratch my head, wonder at the miracle of melted snow. I rub dirty hands on […]

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The End of the Rainbow

What happens when you add fifteen years to memories that were forty years old when you first wrote them down? The answer, expressed mathematically, is this: 40 + 15 = surprise x gratitude. . The End of the Rainbow When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher gave us a short reading assignment about a porpoise. Since I had never heard of the animal or seen the word porpoise […]

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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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Echoes

My first paying job away from the farm was picking grapes on the neighbor’s place immediately west of ours. I was twelve. I worked with the neighbor’s double-jointed son, who was the same age. We did that for two seasons. It was hot, dirty, and dangerous. The danger was from two sources: black widow spiders and yellow jackets. One year, in the space of three days, I killed thirty-four black […]

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6/8 Time

A brightly marked thrush is trying hard to clean its beak against the firm mud at the edge of the frozen dahlia bed, stopping now and again to look up at me through the window, or when it is distracted by bits of food. I wonder how much soil it takes in along with the worms it consumes, and if it notices the varying tastes of clay and silt and […]

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Nicotine

Many years ago, in our old hometown, there was a Japanese man in his nineties who had smoked cigarettes all of his adult life and loved smoking them still, all with no apparent harm to his health. There are people like that, people who can live on terrible, unhealthy diets, or who can consume alcohol in amounts that would make others ill, and yet thrive. As the story goes, with […]

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Hollow Hobo

I had just finished vacuuming the kitchen floor and was about to turn off the machine when I saw an enormous spider walking my way. I pressed the off button. The spider was beautiful, brown and hairy like a small tarantula, but of a much less stocky build. And even if it was not beautiful to my dull standards, I had no desire to end its life, especially in such […]

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Naked in the Realm

The air was so fresh and clean yesterday, so perfectly scented with subtle fall fragrance, the edges of the clouds so beautifully crisp and defined, that one would think there had never been a fire in Oregon, or that nearby there are fires burning still. And now, borne by the southwest wind, rain approaches. In the afternoon I took out our tired old tomato plants; the cherry tomatoes, though, I […]

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Poor Sarkis

Although I too have gone to seed, the birds still prefer the sunflowers. In this world it is not enough to have a big head and limbs. There is an art to being stationary. The spiders, though, are tempted. So are the bees. The lacewings. The crane flies. The breeze. The crane flies. Whither, stranger, dost thou roam? Have you news from home? And he soars, and spins, and cries, […]

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The Grapes Are Early This Year

Our grapes, nearly ripe, were mostly ruined last night by a raccoon. At least two-thirds of the crop was on the ground, along with several leaves, the berries shattered from the bunches and scattered around. We had checked on the vine late yesterday evening and all was well. Then, early this morning, I noticed several places around the house where the animal had dug, the telltale holes being unmistakable. We […]

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