Friday, September 17, 2010

Memorial


My day began in the middle of the night when, after emerging from a tall building that consisted only of stairs, landings, windows, and walls, I met a friend in an open grassy area that might have been a cemetery had there been any graves. The friend, a poet with whom I have corresponded for several years but have not yet met in person, was much taller than I have imagined him. We walked together until we came to a rectangular marble slab about three feet wide and five feet long. About two-thirds of the slab was covered by an inset rectangle of the same relative dimensions and composed of a duller blackish-grayish material on which appeared the faded letters of some kind of message or text. I tried, but it was impossible to read. The letters were like willow wisps, curling and descending toward a dark stream. In a high voice, half recitation, half singing, my friend told me he had placed the memorial there himself, and that the work had taken him only a few hours. With his head held high and his eyes gazing off into the distance, he explained that the government would never have acted as quickly, that the matter had been discussed in Congress before and would be countless times again, despite the fact that the issue was already resolved. From this I understood that it was a war memorial — not for any war in particular, but for the ancient destructive fact of war itself. Then, in my mind’s eye, there rose up a cry in script on a recently excavated scroll of thin flexible stone flecked with bits of fossilized dung and straw, a song of grief long since turned to dust and stars and unearthed bones. I looked up. I saw in my friend’s skull the place where his skin and eyes used to be.

Note: My thanks to Lynn Behrendt for posting this dream in the Annandale Dream Gazette.


Update:
In the Forum: let’s make anagrams.

11 comments:

Caio Fern said...

oh, William.... what did you write...?
this is fantastic.... this is all i needed today to keep my faith on people.
thank you.

William Michaelian said...

Caio, thank you. The feeling goes both ways, my friend.

Anthony Duce said...

This is so very good. Like most of your writing I was in a dark place living with the images of your words, until the end, almost a dream. Thanks

William Michaelian said...

Thank you too, Anthony. I marvel, really, and am grateful that such a thing is possible. A glance at the page reveals lines of type, spaces between them and between the letters and words of which they are made, and yet somehow this “dark place” comes into being. And we’ve both ushered it into existence.

jasmin said...

herzliche Grüße Jasmin,ich habe vor Tagen die Grabstätte von Novalis und seiner Familie von Hardenberg (10 Min. entfernt) aufgesucht,werde demnächst etwas darüber zeigen,es ist unbeschreiblich, welche Gedanken da ablaufen, ich sende schon etwas Herbst mit wunderschönen Farben in die Ferne....

Woman in a Window said...

This is an important piece of writing. I wish it were a brand of sorts and could be seared onto, no, into the souls of all, making the language of peace something that percolated in the vein. It must be a language, musn't it? For the language of war squawks in my ear and makes not one iota of sense.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Jasmin. I sent you a message by email. I hope you receive it.

Erin, we as a species have been at war so long, I think we are afraid of peace, just as we are always afraid of the unknown. And what we call peace, the relative calm between storms, isn’t really peace as long as war exists anywhere in the world — which is to say, in hearts and minds, where war itself begins and must end.

Woman in a Window said...

It has been so long~

There are a few things I do not understand in the world. (hah! I laugh.) I do not understand the nature of music, how one person can translate what is inside of himself to an outside thing, an instrument, and give what is inside to that thing, to have it resonate, and then to translate into me what was originally thought or felt.

I do not understand yeast.

I do not understand war.

Yeast and war are miracles to me. War, I am very unsure about every aspect of it. Truly, I am utterly befuddled. Utterly.

Let us instead break bread and sing.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

The universe, I think, is probably a song. And that just might mean we are instruments.

I like yeast.

all ways 11 o'clock said...

Dear William
This piece is so hard and so beautiful. It takes you to all wars doesn't it? I have never been to war but with real time news and speaking with people who carry war with them, it stops me. The senselessness of war, the memorials we build after, to remember, to remind us of how we are on this treadmill of destruction and murder. We must have art like this to help get off the treadmill.

~robert

William Michaelian said...

Robert, thank you. I think those of us who haven’t been soldiers, or who haven’t endured war’s destruction first-hand, are mistaken when we assume we haven’t been to war, and that we are somehow apart or away from it. War, really, the roots of it, is everywhere in our daily behavior, in the way we live and do business and relate to one another. If there is ever to be an end to war, we need to see the connection between the bloody battlefield and the way we live.