Monday, May 24, 2010

What Was Learned


Joy in what might have been,
and fear of what might never be —

that, he said, is what I learned
from humans.

And then he died a death
he’d never imagined,

in a place he’d never been,
surrounded by friends

he never knew
he had —

that, we said, is what he learned
from humans,

I said, when driftwood
bumped the boat,

and by its ready limb
it helped me in

and taught me how
to float.

(first publication)


Updates:
“What Was Learned” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Hello, Dali.

14 comments:

Woman in a Window said...

Joy in what might have been,
and fear of what might never be —

And so we waste our energy rather than being open and present in the moment, always looking backwardly and forwardly instead. Just recently I read (perhaps here?) of the impossible notion of the now, as it is on that razor's edge, always falling away to then and possibly tomorrow. Perhaps that is why we have such a difficult time with it. (I think, perhaps, I read that at Christopher's...)

I was surprised at the appearance of the driftwood. Is it so simple and bouyant to be in the now? Is that the state we should aspire to, perhaps? Do tell.

xo
erin

RUDHI - Chance said...

Death is the ultimative teacher of life! It's a poem like an ancient present GONG to me, William!

RUDHI - Chance said...

PS: Charon's Float is payed by sungolden coins...

Janice said...

When I daydream of "what might have been" it's always positive, like the proverbial..."the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". "Fear of what might never be", for me, are the changes that would make life better but that don't seem to be happening.
I think that many of us never imagine that we will die someday even though we know that it is inevitable.
In life we all need a piece of "driftwood", maybe someone we love, to help keep us afloat or we will drown in life's tears.

Wine and Words said...

By it's ready limb...it helped. Driftwood is rather seen as a castoff, waste, even a danger to propeller and paint. But in your noticing, it became a step, an aid, a prize.

Woman in a Window said...

William...I wrote in response to this...just so you know.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Everyone, your comments are all in my inbox, but some haven’t appeared in the comment box. This has happened before; when it has, I waited, and within a few hours they appeared. So let’s keep our fingers crossed. Who knows — maybe this one won’t appear either....

lakeviewer said...

I came in from Erin this time. I know, I tend to gravitate from artist to artist. You guys all blow my mind; in pieces too small to be contained.

Old 333 said...

Driftwood. Nifty. I am reminded of a somewhat surreal comic entitled A.L.I.E.E.E.N. by Lewis Trondheim. I highly recommend it as associated reading to this poem. (when you get to the end of it, if you ever do, you may see why).

Thanks for the cool poem, William. I really liked it.

P

William Michaelian said...

Okay, I think now that we’re all present and accounted for, but if I’ve missed anyone, or your comment still hasn’t appeared, please let me know.

Erin, I like the response you posted awhile ago. Aspiring to a state... I don’t know... that kind of talk always makes me nervous. I tend to think that now is all there is, and that what makes it seem otherwise is the way we’re wired to remember. But can’t it be, really, that all of us are bathing in one fluid, continuous moment, and that we slip in and out of the water when we’re born and when we die? — that is, as far as our individual consciousness goes?

Rudhi, Charon does indeed ring a bell....

Janice, “what might have been” just might be what we need, sometimes, to survive “what is.” Time and again, our memory and imagination help us through, as do our loved ones. And that, in part, is how loved ones come to be so loved....

Thanks, Annie. I was hoping. And do you know, that driftwood arrived in the poem just as it and I were about to sink. Or so it seems.... blub... blub...

Lakeviewer, I’m delighted. You sound like the sun in a bright new galaxy, where gravity pulls us every which way.

Well, P, in the meantime, I love the way Laurent Chabosy arrived at his pseudonym.

Woman in a Window said...

William, I laugh that this sort of state makes you nervous and I marvel at the notion that you (might?) believe that, "all of us are bathing in one fluid, continuous moment, and that we slip in and out of the water when we’re born and when we die?" I am much too antsy to accept that, although I wish I could. Intellectually I almost can, but emotionally I think perhaps I am too immature. Is that that right word? How is it that I feel that I am both a very young spirit and old spirit combined? Is there a marriage of such inside of me and that is what propels my internal workings? Is there something to being a Gemini, afterall?

Right now in my life I am in need of spirits such as yours. I think perhaps there is an affinity between you and Robert. And I wonder if this is perhaps something in men? Some men. This ability to dissolve the shoulders and to become a part of the fluidity. It perplexs me and attracts me, as though, for me, there is a paramount lesson to be learned. An absolutely necessary lesson. (And here Robert would laugh a great deal.) Anyhow, this is where I am at this point in my life. And so I will try to sit back and listen sometimes when I remember to stop jumping all about. I do appreciate the thought and care you give to my...enthusiam.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Well, Erin, if I didn’t respond to your enthusiasm, I would either be an impostor or dead. Besides, aren’t you responding to mine? And here the familiar phrase, “Come on in, the water’s fine,” comes to mind.... The fact is, I often sound certain, but I really don’t propose to know, and I’m not that keen, either, on finding out — that is, in the sense of arriving. Can you imagine how bleak it would be to finally know? Meanwhile, I am prey to mood and imagination, the weather, the seasons, internal and external. I’m a leaf on a river, headed for the falls. We know for a fact that physically, we are made of the same stuff, you and I and Robert and the rocks and trees and other animals, and even the stars themselves; maybe that’s the source, or partly the source, of our young-old spirits. I feel it too, have felt it for as long as I can remember.

Woman in a Window said...

I've been meaning to respond to this: "The fact is, I often sound certain, but I really don’t propose to know, and I’m not that keen, either, on finding out." I had a hunch it was so for you and I am so glad. I am with you. I am there, William! I do not for one second wish to arrive at any end, but frig, do I ever get excited along the journey! And of course, I can't help but ask and want to know, want to know, but I don't really want The answer. My god. Might as well plant me. I just want more clues and maybe even a few more questions. This thing of life, it is fun, even when it is not.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Erin. I think a big problem arises when we see ourselves as distinct from nature. Nature itself is unfinished and unfinishable. So are we. But when we view nature as an outside force, then we begin to want more and more control over things which themselves are of feeble construction. Or so it seems to me. This could and probably should be stated better, but the morning sun has flooded my computer screen with light and I must get up and close the curtain.....