Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lemon Sun, Pomegranate Blood


The little unpainted house where my great-grandparents lived has been gone for many years, along with their lilac and lemon tree, their olive tree and barn, and their brave and lonely footprints in the dust. It is gone, yet last night I saw it in a dream, a silent beacon in the dark standing at the northwest corner of Road 74 and Avenue 404, with yellow light spilling from its windows on the ground.

I stopped the car and went inside. The house was much bigger than before. There were many rooms, with strange high ceilings, and in each room there was a bed. In each bed there was an old man or old woman near death, softly moaning. One man, lying on his side with his eyes shut against the world, said, “I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired....” Poor soul. Lonely soul.

No one else was about. No warm and smiling aunt, no patient grandmother with weathered hands, no sunburned grandfather with rough gray whiskers on his face. Only this harbor of despair, with its battered boats gently rocking, rocking, rocking,

and I a stranger
in this place,
passing from
door to door.

The real house contained old letters and a piano, a heavy oak dining table, kitchen implements, and straw hats. The entire floor was bowed, and a large branch from an umbrella tree held the roof in place like a giant’s thumb. There were dry weeds in the yard, a pomegranate tree, and a lilac thriving against all odds. A tiny, sun-bleached garage. A tank house with a circular harrow on the ground floor, and an outside staircase to the second floor where my father’s uncle lived. A faithful barn, in which all else could have been safely stored for the Second Coming,

a farmer’s cathedral
without a gate.

I left the place, ashamed that I was late.

This morning, the sun is a ripe lemon high up in my family tree, and my fingers are stained with the pomegranate’s blood. The miles I traveled in my sleep are etched upon the wood of this old house,

like the lines
in our foreheads,
or our crooked
vineyard rows.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 20, 2005.


Update:
In the Forum: notes and more notes.

17 comments:

Wine and Words said...

Frig! Fabulous writing. Delicious. Really, really lovely, but melancholy. And I happen to love melancholy. "The sun a ripe lemon high up in my family tree..." Sometimes it just amazes me how mere mortals come up with such heavenly words.

I had a dream last night that I saw a tornado in the clouds. I kept pointing it out to people, asking if it was indeed as I suspected. They declined to answer and went about their business. I alone, sought refuge in a basement. Alone. Dark. Hmmmmm. Melancholy.

Janice said...

This is just to wonderful for any words that I could come up with William...this is also why you are a "writer" and why I keep wanting more and more of your words and stories!!! I can't stop at just one...beautiful!!!

William Michaelian said...

Yes, Annie, hmmmmmmm indeed..... I think I might have added a few mmms..... Your kind words are deeply appreciated.

As are yours, Janice. And your comment also reminds me of the old potato chip advertisement, “I’ll bet you can’t eat just one.”

Janice said...

You're right William...so I'll stick to your stories instead of potato chips, because your stories don't stick to my hips :)

Joseph Hutchison said...

Delicious indeed! I love the mix of prose and poetry: as in Basho's travel journals, it captures the shifting intensities of perception, memory, and imagination as they flow separately or intermingle (as in "the sun is a ripe lemon high up in my family tree"). Amazing stuff....

awyn said...

Very nice, William! Details in dreams woven with details in memory, a tapestry to be treasured.

William Michaelian said...

Well, Janice, you can’t beat a recommendation like that. It just might be enough to get me on “Oprah”...

Thanks, Joe. I do love those travel journals. I don’t remember whether I read Narrow Road before or after writing this piece. I’m not very good at noting such things. “One of these days,” assuming I live that long, this will be part of a Press Series volume containing similar stuff.

Annie, I was wondering when both Annies would finally comment on the same piece, and if I should address you as Annie One and Annie Two, or perhaps Early Annie and Earliest Annie according to the length of our acquaintance. But now I think I’ll just call you both Annie. That settled, I thank you for your dream-memory observation, and for your lovely compliment.

all ways 11 o'clock said...

William- The journey you take us on, thru dreams in houses and rooms with the dying, "Only this harbor of despair, with its battered boats gently rocking, rocking, rocking, ...", my word the pictures in this piece. The story so rich with image and emotion.

~robert

William Michaelian said...

Robert, life is strange and wonderful: we still use the oak table I refer to in this piece. You can see it here. And I thank you for your beautiful response.

Vatche said...

Hey, William, I posted my comment yesterday but apparently it disappeared 'cause of my computer...damn, and I had some great thoughts, too.

Anyway, I'm going to sort of paraphrase what I said the other day...

Very interesting post with strong imagery. I can imagine you stepping into the house and the wood boards beneath you creak. I can see the pomegranate trees, the "giant's thumb" and the people lying in their beds. Very powerful post with the way you intertwined poetry and prose, I really thought that was cool. Write on, William.

William Michaelian said...

Ah, the fish that got away... Thanks, Vatche. I can’t ask for anything better than this entry making you feel like you were there. As many times as I visited the place as it’s described, I’ve gone that many more times in my mind. I can still taste the dust, and feel the holy gloom inside my great-grandparents’ barn. It’s all a lingering dream.

Silvie Martin said...

This is beautiful. It reminded me of my grandfather who left an empty space in my heart eight years ago. I happen to live in the house he left, the home he loved so much. Reading this made me miss him so. This piece has a wonderful old world flavor to it - something bittersweet and lovely. Thank you William.

William Michaelian said...

Silvie, every once in a while, when I’m working on something, it strikes me that the piece sounds as if it had first been written in another language — as if I were hearing it from an old aunt or uncle. I still remember the time my grandfather, when describing the freshly cultivated space between two vineyard rows, said, “The ground worked up just like pilaf.” That phrase and many others went straight to my heart and settled in my bones.... Meanwhile, something beautiful happens in us when we’re lucky enough to inhabit the same space and follow in the same steps and cycles of departed loved ones. In a way, it’s as if they live on, and take joy in watching the world through our eyes.

Woman in a Window said...

William, it is hard sometimes to see past the personal experience. I do see the beauty of your words, to be sure, but I wonder at the motivation for the moaning man with no one to tend him. I wonder on my own guilt. And it is here I sit with this one.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Erin. It’s hard for me to think in terms of motivation as it relates to a dream. The man’s presence is just a faithful recording. And yet I feel guilt as well.

don't be emily said...

It is beautiful, especially those last lines.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Katie.