Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Like his mother, light is the first word our grandson is able to say, except that when she was a little girl, she said it much sooner and in Armenian: looys — or, if you prefer a different transliteration, luys. That was back in 1980, around the time I made a point of learning the Armenian alphabet and how to read in that ancient, poetic language — an endeavor that paid off immensely and still influences, by strange and unpredictable degrees, the way I write today.

Although I understand a fair bit, I don’t really speak Armenian, and have dreamed in it only a handful of times, at least two or three of which unfolded while I was awake, my tongue freed by the glow of new friendship and the influence of Armenian cognac.

Our grandson, who is twenty-two months old today, does quite a bit of talking, unimpaired as he is by meaning and other futile linguistic concerns. Some of it is emphatic, but the blossoming speech of his I like best arises in the form of explanation, and in pointing out things he has noticed. A recent, poignant example happened just the other day, when he suddenly became arrested by a small photograph of my father and his brother taken when they were about three and five. Both are smiling. Dad has a big mop of wavy hair, and Haig, who was killed in what is mistakenly called the Second World War, seems lit by mirth from within. The picture is beneath this framed representation of the Armenian alphabet, on a little table near our front door where it’s easy for him to see. I was sitting nearby. He looked at it, then looked at me, and began speaking softly yet urgently, just as if the boys had told him something — a secret, perhaps, a wise intonation of the invisible world they now inhabit, something they might already have tried to pass along to me and which I, in my profound deafness, was unable to hear.

I said yes, and the moment passed, as all moments do. He was satisfied, then showed me his balloon.

[click to enlarge]

Note: Writing Smoke, Cigar #1.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Ron Silliman for including a link to A Get Well Card for Brian Salchert in the extensive selection of poetry-related links he posted this morning.

“Light” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.

In the Forum: a wholly holy trinity.


Caio Fernandes said...

this cover should be exhibited in a art gallerie .

oh no , forget , art galleries don't have this high level sofistication and don't stand so much beauty .

Leks said...

Laughing out loud at the picture of you getting your tong freed by the influence of Armenian cognac and that little man talking to you,giving a secret message from your dad and you with your-yes- answer,all is beautiful as the photo of this Armenian alphabet.Is that photo in your house?
Looys to you all, :O) Aleksandra

William Michaelian said...

Yes, Aleksandra, the alphabet is in a frame on the wall. My brother and I brought it home from Armenia in 1982. And I just remembered — one bottle of cognac broke in my suitcase at the Los Angeles airport, “baptizing” some of my new books....

Caio, thank you — we will make our galleries wherever we go, without walls..... Of course, walls are good to paint on too. A few years ago I wrote a poem about an artist who painted the walls of a prison — and they locked him up!