Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canvas 63

“Canvas 63”
June 29, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: missing Volume 21.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Among the Graves

From One Hand Clapping, dated April 5, 2004, this waking dream:

In restless sleep I walked the sinewy streets of an ancient city, searching for someone or something I had lost. The stone walls spoke in great waves of scented color, bearing a message of music and light. Strangers knew me, and welcomed me into their homes. In an outpouring of kindness, they showed me the graves they had long kept hidden in their hearts. Perhaps what you are looking for is here, they said. I wandered among the graves. I found there all the strangers knew, all they remembered, all they had forgotten, everything they had said, the deeds they had done, and the promises they had yet to fulfill. But the someone or something I had lost, I did not find. I offered them my gratitude. We wept together and sang together. Then they followed me to the edge of the city and watched as I traveled on. And I wondered: who are they? And how is it that I know them so well, but still do not know myself?

In the Forum: a long line outside a rural reading room.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making Our Way

“Canvas 62”
June 26, 2010

[click to enlarge]

It might be crazy, but I’m thinking about putting together a collection of my drawings and publishing it as a book. At least I hope it’s crazy, because if that element is missing there isn’t much point in doing it.

The volume wouldn’t be part of my Author’s Press Series, as that serves a different purpose. What I envision, rather, is something of a different shape and size in a matte or glossy finish — in short, an art book that would preserve some of my favorite drawings independently from the computer screen.

I have thought, too, about making and selling prints, of selling them in limited editions, or even as one of a kind. I’ve also thought of showing them somewhere. This realm, though, is new to me — which is one more thing that’s tempting about it.

True, the endeavor might be misguided. But I like what the drawings express, and the way they exist as a kind of wordless appeal to stop, listen, and wonder. They’re important too, in that they offer another way in, as if moments were windows. And unless I’m mistaken, these are more than self-portraits; they are also portraits of the self at large — our selves, making their way in the world.

And if I am mistaken, it won’t be the first time. Either way, we’ll see where it leads. The idea could fall flat on its face, grow, take flight, or become something else entirely. Or it might wait until after I’ve gone — for a walk, my eager friend, for a walk.

In the Forum: understated in a flashy sort of way.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Canvas 61

“Canvas 61”
June 25, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: what grows in yonder field.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spoken by Flowers, Understood by Bees

Yesterday afternoon, still dazed from having released One Hand Clapping, I was paging through my proof copy when I happened on this entry for April 13, 2004. It explains a lot, I think:

The simple truth is, I haven’t written enough. I have written quite a bit in a fairly short amount of time, but I feel strongly that most of my work remains undone. If I were to die today I wouldn’t be ashamed of what was accomplished; but if I were to go on living for many more years and I didn’t continue writing, I think I would be ashamed. I will definitely not retire. I might be forced to retire due to poor health, blindness, or the further erosion of my faculties, but until that happens I plan to work. The work might include more than writing. It could branch off into music, painting, film, or photography. Along the way, I might even learn patience, which in itself is an art. Somehow, I have to learn to express what needs to be expressed in a language as powerful as that spoken by flowers and understood by bees, or as spoken by the wind and understood by the smallest blade of grass. I don’t want to spend my whole life hitting people over the head with a hammer, as I so often do. I want them to gently take the hammer from my hand and — hit themselves with it. Then I know I will die a happy man.

In the Forum: warped and swollen from a recent thunderstorm.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Hand Clapping

One Hand Clapping is the third volume in my Author’s Press Series. Cover art for this 444-page first edition is by my friend, the inimitable artist of wonder and Zen, Rudhi:

One Hand Clapping
Author’s Press Series, Vol. 3
ISBN: 978-0-557-151095-5
444 pages. Paper. $23.00

Cover art by Rudhi (Rudolf Rüscher)

Autobiography. Dreams. Family History. Literature.
Memoir. Politics. War. Writing.

[click to enlarge]

Copies can be ordered securely online here. As always, if you’d like to order directly from me for any reason, I’d be happy to oblige. Just drop me a line using the email address at the bottom of the sidebar and we’ll go from there. Paypal is an excellent option.

As a daily journal, One Hand Clapping is a record of my life and the life around me during a two-year period. Between my ears, however, it’s much more than that, because I was conscious from the beginning of its development as a cohesive work — or, at the very least, a book with certain themes that recur like timely nightmares. While I succeeded in this to some extent, One Hand Clapping is every bit as much a bedside reader, in that one can jump in and out of the book at random and still come away with something of humor and value. Either way, after living with it for a time, you will know me better — and, if you’re open to the idea, you just might know yourself better as well.

It isn’t easy to sum up the content of the book. It contains nearly a quarter of a million words. Here’s the main part of the book description as it appears in my store:

“Designed and published by William Michaelian, the Author’s Press Series was conceived as a set of relatively inexpensive, uniformly designed titles meant to explore different themes and facets of his writing. The third volume, One Hand Clapping, is a daily journal begun during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and completed in 2005. In it the topics of war and politics are interspersed with a wealth of autobiographical material, family history, dreams, and the author’s thoughts on art, literature, and society. Candid throughout, the 730 entries in this book are key in understanding his vision of the world.”

There’s much more to it, of course. The fact is, One Hand Clapping is an indispensable part of my “canon.” And shot from a cannon, it will yield one heck of a thud.

Also in this Series:
Vol. 1 — The Painting of You
Vol. 2 — No Time to Cut My Hair

Canvas 60

“Canvas 60”
June 24, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.24.2010 #2
6.24.2010 #1 (first publication)

Not a Train

It’s not a train you hear,
but the sound of gears

’neath an old gray hat,
across a chasm, grinding.

(first publication)

“Not a Train” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: shake, rattle, and roll.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Canvas 59

“Canvas 59”
June 23, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.23.2010 #2
6.23.2010 #1 (first publication)

Thinking of St. John’s

Summer, as if I were a dry riverbed

              that remembers the rain,

                             or the dust on your face

                      and hands.

(first publication)

“Thinking of St. John’s” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: Spurtz, Dartz, and Mertz.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Art of Timing

I have no idea where those kids of mine got the idea that I needed another bookshelf, but after supper on Father’s Day, in they walked with a cardboard box that contained the little beauty you see here on the right. It had to be assembled, of course. And so I spent the rest of the evening reliving the toils, troubles, and ultimate success I enjoyed recently with my tall bookcase. Despite the jumbled diagrams, the work went well — until the very end, when once again the neighborhood was treated to a bit of choice vocabulary.

[click to enlarge]

Now, as you can see, this bookcase is almost full. And to make a place for it, I had to move one of my mother’s old decorative tables to the opposite side of the room, making the parlor that much more crowded. A dramatic improvement, in my opinion. The shelf next to it is the one I bought at Goodwill a few months ago for $7.95. Beyond that is the bookcase my brother and I made for our mother many years ago in a shop class. The books in it are most of those she collected over the years. Where will the next bookcase go? Time will tell.

In the Forum: up pig’s creep without a saddle.

Monday, June 21, 2010


June 21, 2010
Pencil on 4 x 6 Index Card

[click to enlarge]

6.21.2010 #2
6.21.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 58

“Canvas 58”
June 20, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: up a tree without a puddle.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stefania left a child

A fine post by a wonderful artist and friend, Laura Tedeschi.

6.20.2010 #2
6.20.2010 #1 (first publication)


Tricked into depression by a poem no one else would claim.
Tricked into joy when it’s done. Tricked into shadow.
Tricked into triumph. Tricked into an early grave.
Tricked by it all, I take up my pen, eager to be tricked again.

(first publication)

“Tricked” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

Great! I just received the Versatile Blogger Award from Vatche, who just happens to be one of the youngest, most determined writers I know. His books are not in stores, but I assure you they will be. Just give him time.

Now, in giving this award, which several others also received, Vatche says that there are certain “rules” attached. My immediate answer to this, of course, is that I will not follow the rules. Doing so is completely contrary to my nature. Vatche, I’m sorry, but I can’t follow the rules. But something tells me you will understand.

One of the rules is that I should share seven things about myself. Really, Vatche? Must I reveal seven more? Were I to do so, especially all at once, that might be perceived as cruelty. No, I’d best stick to my camouflage method of drawings and poems. Again, I know you will understand.

I’m also supposed to pass the award along to fifteen bloggers, but I’m afraid I can’t do that either. I refuse to accept such a limit. I will only leave someone out and then hate myself later. Why do that when I can cut to the chase and hate myself now?

Vatche, you are one of a kind. I thank you for this award, and will do my best to live up to your reason for giving it. It’s an honor to know you.

6.19.2010 #2
6.19.2010 #1 (marginalia)

Some Changes Around Here

Yes, I’ve done a bit of freshening up around the old blog joint lately. After changing the color scheme and layout, I decided to go a step further and take advantage of the “pages” feature. I thought it would be nice, especially for people new to the blog, to have some basic information available at first glance upon their arrival. But I hope, too, that everyone will take a look. Just click on the tabs that run across the page above the first entry. Have you ever wondered where I got the name “Recently Banned Literature”? That question is answered in “About.” The other tabs make it easier to find information about my books — the titles available and those forthcoming, along with links to selected reviews.

All unnecessary, perhaps. As Erin, who shares her thoughts so beautifully in her blog, the tiny leaf, kindly said when the template was first changed, “But none of us comes for your page. We come for your mind, your words, your spirit.” And yet that spirit is a restless one, and there is always the need to move on. For even as this post was done, outside, the courtship of two tiny yellow birds was begun. To say something, anything, requires a space — a nest for words, a branch where pictures may be hung.

And since I come for your minds, your words, your spirits, this space must somehow reflect my appreciation and care. We’re here until we’re gone. Our instinct for beauty is as strong as our need to communicate. When the two converge, we’re lucky ones, indeed.

In the Forum: Spart drank the cider.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Times Two

At the post office, I saw someone from our old neighborhood. He’d aged considerably. His legs were skinnier, his hair grayer, his posture less secure. On his nightly walks, he used to smoke cigars. The smoke reminded me of my father. Now everything does, in one way or another. And according to my grandson, the old one in the mirror is not the neighbor anymore — without words, of course. I drag my comb across his head. He loves the way it feels, the teeth of fate in neat deep rows, the steady feet in distant fields, this man he trusts with all his soul.

(first publication)

“Times Two” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: digging beautiful French ditches.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The first red roses, and a smile
she doesn’t know she has.

A soap bubble as big
as Grandpa’s head.

Nap time. A coffee-flavored kiss.

(first publication)

“Bouquet” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mindfield: New & Selected Poems, by Gregory Corso

[click to enlarge]

Mindfield: New & Selected Poems, by Gregory Corso. With forewords by William S. Burroughs & Allen Ginsberg and drawings by the author. Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York (1989). 268 pages. Gift from Gerry Boyd.

6.16.2010 #3
6.16.2010 #2 (marginalia)
6.16.2010 #1 (drawing)

To the Brim

I’m so disappointed in hats these days that I’ve started looking for them in online Civil War and Victorian shops. To accommodate my hair and beard, I need something with a very wide brim and a crown that isn’t excessively high. It should probably be black, but the right gray or even a dark rich coffee color would suffice. I have a floppy black beret I bought years ago for eleven dollars when my head was smaller. It looks ridiculous now. I also have a black wool cap from Armenia. It’s flat on top, and the style used to be common there, especially among older men, but I’ve seen pictures of soccer stadiums filled with men wearing them. I do love old black-and-white crowd scenes full of hats and cigarettes. With the right hat, I could walk right into one and never be heard from again, at least until supper time.

6.16.2010 #2
6.16.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 57

“Canvas 57”
June 15, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: that’s the way Billy planned it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Canvas 56

“Canvas 56”
June 15, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.15.2010 #5
6.15.2010 #4 (drawing)
6.15.2010 #3 (drawing)
6.15.2010 #2 (recently received)
6.15.2010 #1 (dream)

Canvas 55

“Canvas 55”
June 15, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.15.2010 #4
6.15.2010 #3 (drawing)
6.15.2010 #2 (recently received)
6.15.2010 #1 (dream)

Canvas 54

“Canvas 54”
June 15, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.15.2010 #3
6.15.2010 #2 (recently received)
6.15.2010 #1 (dream)



Images courtesy of Rudhi

See also: Howl

6.15.2010 #2
6.15.2010 #1 (dream)

Night Moves

The old white washing machine was in a partially dismantled state. The person working on it was familiar, but I couldn’t remember his name. Like a prospector, he removed several screens and filters clogged with grit and sand and held them up to the light. I was wondering what the machine would sound like when I suddenly found myself driving it from the yard to the road in front of my childhood home. It had become a strange, long, hollow van with rain on the windshield. But the steering wheel was at the rear, and it was hard to see where I was going. Through will alone, I managed to move the controls to the front where they belonged. I pulled onto the road and headed toward town. It was night. Up ahead, someone had parked a car across the road. Several people were waiting beside it. They seemed hostile and menacing, so I turned the washing machine van around. I decided to take the back way. I drove past the neighbor’s vineyard and into a large room. My mother was in the room. She was sitting up in bed, exhausted after having taken a shower. I stood beside her. There was a top hat on the dresser. I put it on. She said, “Don’t go. Please, don’t go.” There were French doors leading out. Through the glass I could see stars, clear to the ground.

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

Related: The Thing About Strawberries: 31 Dreams

In the Forum: at least he doesn’t hate me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jagged Timeline

Jagged Timeline
Robert Gibbons

Bilingual Edition (English/Danish)
selected and translated with an introduction
by Bent Sørensen

EyeCorner Press


6.14.2010 #2
6.14.2010 #1 (recently received)


[click to enlarge]

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg. Original draft facsimile, transcript & variant versions, fully annotated by author, with contemporaneous correspondence, account of first public reading, legal skirmishes, precursor texts & bibliography. Edited by Barry Miles. Harper & Row, Publishers, New York (1986). 194 pages. Gift from Gerry Boyd.

In the Forum: fifty percent of nothing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Canvas 53

“Canvas 53”
June 13, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.13.2010 #4
6.13.2010 #3 (drawing)
6.13.2010 #2 (poem)
6.13.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 52

“Canvas 52”
June 13, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.13.2010 #3
6.13.2010 #2 (poem)
6.13.2010 #1 (drawing)

Homesick Blues

Oh, to be a stranger in the station,
the moment you confide,

a well-timed suicide,
a faceless whistle

in an aimless


(first publication)

6.13.2010 #2
6.13.2010 #1 (drawing)

“Homesick Blues” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Spring Bouquet

Spring Bouquet
June 12, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: ah-ooooo-ga! and a dream cookbook.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drawings of an AmeriQuebeckian

That’s it exactly, Annie —
there’s no way but forward.

And what you say about
the stories is so true.

Note: Yes, I’m trying a new layout. Shocking, isn’t it? For the most part, I like the way the template handles the drawings and the sidebar information. I’m not crazy about the sans serif font, but I suppose that can be changed. I’d also like the links to show up a little better....

Fresh Strawberries

I want everyone to see what my friend Rudhi has done:

[click to enlarge]

The painting is for sale. You can read about it here. Beautiful! Thank you, Rudhi.

The Thing About Strawberries: 31 Dreams

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Shelf Also Rises

[click to enlarge]

The tall bookcase is new. I assembled it, all by myself, the day before yesterday. I was left alone because no one can stand to be around me when I undertake such things. I started quietly and methodically enough, but as the sweat began to roll and the blasted directions betrayed me, I became, shall we say, rather “animated.” Only once, however, did I have to prevent myself from bashing the thing to smithereens. I was on a step ladder at the time. There was a screw driver in my hand. But the need for shelf space outweighed my anger.

The result, I think, is quite nice. As you can see, the bookcase is already full. Meanwhile, as fate would have it, the books in the foreground arrived in the evening by UPS as I was nearing completion. They’re a generous and amazing gift from poet Gerry Boyd. So far, I’ve sorted them into four general categories: poetry; books about poetry; drama; fiction; nonfiction; biography; and reference. As I said, four categories. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven... hmm — no wonder I have trouble building things.

I’ll write more about this wonderful shipment later — maybe in my next life, or after the aspirin kicks in. Obviously, each book must be sniffed, handled, examined, and properly welcomed. Quite by accident, I did find a pressed flower in one. I let it stay, of course. And I’ve already forgotten which book it’s in.

In the Forum: the old Victrola and “Tea for Two.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Canvas 51

“Canvas 51”
June 10, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.10.2010 #4
6.10.2010 #3 (drawing)
6.10.2010 #2 (drawing)
6.10.2010 #1 (review, recent link)

Canvas 50

“Canvas 50”
June 10, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.10.2010 #3
6.10.2010 #2 (drawing)
6.10.2010 #1 (review, recent link)

Canvas 49

“Canvas 49”
June 10, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.10.2010 #1
6.10.2010 #2 (review, recent link)

Whipped Dogs and Butterflies

A kind note from Kevin McCollister:


A man who eats dinner every day at four. A man with a forty inch waist and a thirty inch inseam. A man who shares a bathroom with nine other men. A cold spaghetti eater, the international spokesman of the dull...they’re all “Among the Living” — but just barely.

So much frustration burns within each one of them that it’s a wonder a scream doesn’t erupt until it does.

The stories of Among the Living are just as well-observed as the beautiful poems in The Painting of You but, damn, they seem to come from an entirely different solar system. The narrators of your stories are sardonic, whipped dogs who can’t wait for it all to be over. The man who cared for his ailing mother, however, imagines her eating bowls of cereal with butterflies in her hair.

I think most of us would admit, however reluctantly, to living most of our lives in the world of Among the Living. It’s the possibility of spending a few moments in the world of The Painting of You that makes us smile in anticipation.

Cover image: an early self-portrait (click to enlarge).

Among the Living and Other Stories
The Painting of You

Recently Linked: My thanks to Melanie Huber for linking here from her blog, Mortal Corkscrew. A link there can also be found in the “Reading Room.”

Kevin’s letter added to Among the Living.

In the Forum: his master’s crank and turntable.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Thing About Strawberries

This morning, my wife and I took our grandson to the country produce market we visit dozens of times each year. The first local strawberries were in, and the company’s little shortcake stand was open. The market is situated on the southeast corner at a four-way stop with fields all around. It had just rained, and the world was sparkling and new. Then, emerging from the building with our strawberries in hand, I was struck through by the absence of my friend. I knew what that moment would have meant to him. For with each new season, he would emphatically declare, “I’m going to eat more strawberries and shortcake this year.”

Never again. And that is one more thing about strawberries.

The Thing About Strawberries: 31 Dreams
by William Michaelian
22 pages. Chapbook. $5.00

Cover and four illustrations
by Neal Zirn


MuscleHead Press
BoneWorld Publishing
3700 County Route 24
Russell, New York 13684

6.9.2010 #2
6.9.2010 #1 (drawing; marginalia)

The Well

My days are lettered, not numbered, my thoughts unsound. I’m lighter than air, but reason weighs me down. I draw when I write, and write when I draw. When in doubt, I imagine the well. I call out. The echo is real.

“Canvas 48”
June 8, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: his master’s arm.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Too Many

One Too Many
June 8, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.8.2010 #2
6.8.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 47

“Canvas 47”
June 7, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: scotch and soda, mud in your eye.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Webster’s “New” International Dictionary

A few (too many) words about a dear friend of mine, posted several years ago in Favorite Books & Authors:

Webster’s New International Dictionary
of the English Language

G. & C. Merriam Company (1924)

[click to enlarge]

As far as I’m concerned, you can bury me with this book. But before you do, let me hoist it onto my work table and tell you a little about it. First, the title page. It says here that my trusted companion is “based on the international dictionary of 1890 and 1900,” and is “now completely revised in all departments including also a dictionary of geography and biography, being the latest authentic quarto edition of the Merriam Series. W.T. Harris, Ph.D., Ll.D., Editor in Chief; F. Sturges Allen, General Editor. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A. Published by G. & C. Merriam Company. 1924.”

Now, closing the book that we may judge it by its cover, we find by means of a cheap plastic ruler that the book measures roughly nine by twelve inches, and that it is a full five inches thick. The cover itself is a dirty, beat-up gold. The front and back are still attached to the spine, but are just barely hanging on, which is why I usually leave the dictionary open. All edges are frayed, and there are threads about half an inch long sticking out from the seams. If I had to guess the book’s weight — oof! — I’d say it rings in at about fifteen pounds.

There is some other interesting information printed at the back of the book. In fact, I should have looked here before getting out my ruler. On the very last page, it says that my dictionary measures twelve and three-eighths by nine and three-quarters by five inches, and that it weighs fourteen and three-quarters pounds. Page count: 2,700. Number of illustrations: 6,000. Number of words defined: more than 400,000.

Here is a small portion of what is printed on the upper half of the same page:

Why own a dictionary? Many answer, “So as to know the spelling and pronunciation of words.” Yes, but the modern dictionary has gone far beyond this primary stage and has become almost a universal question answerer. Its purpose, to-day, is to give quick, accurate, encyclopedic, up-to-date information of all kinds that shall be of vital interest and use to all people.

An Aid in Your Work. No matter what your occupation, trade, or profession, the New International will tell you how the best authorities define all its terms. A steel expert confesses that its definition of Vanadium steel gives him information long sought in vain. A judge prefers its law definitions to those of his special law dictionaries. An architect, builder, clerk, machinist, merchant, banker, doctor, clergyman, each will find his department treated by a master of that specialty who has gathered his material from the whole field involved. The man who knows, wins success, and here you have exact knowledge at your fingers’ ends.

Wonderful, isn’t it? I’ve had this dictionary for years. Countless times, I’ve used it as an encyclopedia. For instance, do you know what a “Lemoine pivot” is? The term pertains to automobiles and is “a steering pivot in which each of the swiveling axles carrying the fore wheels moves on a vertical standard at either end of the dead axle.” And here, right next to the definition, is a little drawing of a Lemoine pivot, plain as the nose on my face.

The illustrations in this dictionary are superb. On pages 946 and 947, there are excellent drawings of a gray whale, a gray parrot, a graylag (a European wild goose known for its “lagging” or late migrating), a Michigan grayling (related to trout), a great horned owl, a Great Dane, and a red-necked Grebe (closely related to loons).

Near the bottom of each page is a heavy rule, underneath which are given brief definitions of odd-ball words, some long since fallen into disuse — and by “long since” I mean long since 1924. For example, on page 1,387 we find the word “mochy” (long or short “o” is optional), which, taken from the Scottish, means, variously, moist; damp; misty; or muggy. Did you know that “Mittler’s green” is a variety of chrome green? If you’re wondering what “chrome green” is, it’s “any of several green pigments, consisting essentially of chromic oxide or hydroxide or some chromic salt, used by artists and house painters, in printing wall paper, etc.”

Meanwhile, back at the M’s, a “mixer-ess” is a female mixer. “Mizzle” means to take one’s self off; to disappear suddenly; slink away; decamp. And here’s one that describes the website you’re visiting now: “Miscreation. Noun. Act or result of miscreating; a misshapen or deformed thing,” which, of course, makes me a miscreator.

Have you ever heard the term “grapho-spasm”? It means “writer’s cramp.” Speaking of writing, did you know the word “write” originally meant to scratch, to score, to tear, or to rend? Oddly enough, that’s exactly what I do.

Ah, this old dictionary of mine. Careful now. . . . Easy on that binding. . . . Back to the inside cover we go. Someone has written here, in pencil, “$1.50.” This must mean the book sat in a used book shop for a time. For how long, I wonder? And where else has it been? The dictionary was given to me by an Armenian priest, who thought it took up too much space in his office. How it got there, I have no idea.

In flowery script someone else has written, “Norman Williams, IV. From Mother, with love. Christmas 1924. Woodstock, Vermont.”

Are you out there, Mr. Williams? If you are, by some quirk of fate I’m the one who has your dictionary. Believe me, sir, it’s an honor. I can only hope that you and your dictionary weren’t separated under difficult or violent circumstances. If you were, I am truly sorry.

Still, I keep the dictionary. I hold the key to the universe. I get to be the one who looks at the flags of every country in the world, as the world existed in 1924. I have the two glossy pages of colored photographs entitled, “Coins of the World,” which include a picture of the Abyssinian silver Talari and the Swiss bronze two-centime piece. And I get to be the one who draws comfort from these thin, yellowed pages, and from the riddles, rhymes, and meanings they contain.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Canvas 46

“Canvas 46”
June 6, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.6.2010 #2
6.6.2010 #1 (recently acquired)

A Dollar a Minute

A couple of days ago, I visited the Friends bookstore at the public library. According to the parking meter, I was there for thirteen minutes — which I thought was wonderful, because in that time I spent thirteen dollars. Five of those dollars went to the purchase of this book:

The Treasury of Song for the Home Circle
(without words)

World Publishing Company
Guelph, Ontario
Copyright 1882, by Hubbard Brothers, Philadelphia
517 pages. $5.00.

[click to enlarge]

The rest went to these:

Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus. Edited with introduction, translation, and notes by Janet Case. J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. Aldine House, London. June 1922 reprint of January 1905 first edition. In Greek and English. 135 pages. $.50.

The Trial, by Franz Kafka. Definitive Edition translated from the German by Willa and Edwin Muir. Revised, and with additional materials translated, by E.M. Butler. Illustrated by George Salter. The Modern Library, New York (1964). 341 pages. $2.00.

More Collected Verse, by Robert Service. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York (1967). 977 pages, plus title and contents pages for each of the five books contained. $2.00.

The 26 Letters (a nicely illustrated history of the alphabet), by Oscar Ogg. The Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York (1948). 253 pages. $1.50.

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Illustrations by Hablot K. Browne (“Phiz”). Afterword by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin. The Reader’s Digest Association (1984). 399 pages. $2.00.

I had intended to take more pictures, especially of the song book, but somehow the camera slipped into the “view the memory stick” mode and I don’t know how to change it back. It’s my son’s camera. The next time he’s here, he can straighten it (me) out. Oh — and this pile of books is still on my desk. It’s getting mighty crowded around here.

In the Forum: chirrurgeon monstrolata.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Among the Living (detail, for Robert)

Among the Living (detail, for Robert)
May 31, 2010
Salem, Oregon

Photo by Vahan Michaelian

[click to enlarge]

6.5.2010 #3
6.5.2010 #2 (drawing)
6.5.2010 #1 (first publication)

Canvas 45

“Canvas 45”
June 5, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.5.2010 #2
6.5.2010 #1 (first publication)

The Same Gray Sound

The dove, the sky,
and I — different words,
the same gray sound.

And so begins a day in June, a man in the mist looking out at the street, holding a brush, a riddle, a pen, not forsaken yet, wise in the little he knows, foolish in regret, at the precipice. He sees it clearly now, and feels it in his bones: this life he lives will plant him in the ground. Friends dare not interfere, for too much care is suicidal folly. Too little, idle curiosity. But toe in or toe out, a river is still a river and just as cold.

He has seen death, and the last breath taken. He has heard the rattle and the after-gasp of lips. Not one gray sound could pry a word from silence. He left the room as if he’d left a forest, incomplete until a ripe tree falls.

I have known him. We’ve walked the same gray mile. His song and mine are one — mine the plow, his the road; his the eagle, mine the toad; his the rhyme, mine the proffered bottle. Cleft, we are more one than two, a true comedy of mirrors.

If he asks where you’ve been, don’t tell him, even if you know. If he begs, seek some other window. For he sees all that he remembers, and in dim light makes haste to watch it grow. He wants your love, he wants your truth, he wants your soul. He wants gray flowers.

(first publication)

“The Same Gray Sound” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Canvas 44

“Canvas 44”
June 4, 2010

[click to enlarge]

6.4.2010 #2
6.4.2010 #1 (first publication)

No Tobacco

I clench the pipe between my teeth. No tobacco. I think about a trip to the store, the fine aroma of a newly opened pouch. But I don’t get up. Instead, I light an imagined match with the flick of a nail, pretending its my thumb, and then I puff and inhale, puff... and... inhale.

The store is a little place on the corner in an undiscovered country. There’s a bell on the door. When it rings, the proprietor speaks ten languages. Like me, English is his worst. Our long friendship is based on one misunderstanding after another.

I love him dearly. He knows exactly why I’ve come — to show him my charred thumb. From behind the counter he hands me another, insists I try it on. It fits perfectly. I am pleased — so much so, I set my nose on fire.

I show him my empty wallet. He laughs, then unfolds a map that has no borders. We look at it for hours. Finally, we’re able to locate the exact spot on which we stand. We can even see ourselves on the map, smaller than the smallest ant. We are ants.

I skitter one way, he skitters another. “Hey,” he says, “you want tobacco?” I tell him no, that I’ll buy some next time. “Haircut, then? I have scissors.” But he’s only joking. He knows I don’t want a haircut. The last time, he cut off one of my antennae.

I will step on them, Mama. I don’t like ants. They bite. We fall silent — so silent that we never speak again. Good boy. And then, one... last... sting.... Ouch!... and with the flick of a nail, I puff and inhale, puff... and... inhale.

(first publication)

“No Tobacco” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Eughk eughk e you gee h kee.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fifteen Years

A calm day. A peaceful day. A day of steady rain, and of soft lacy maples closed upon themselves, a day of sheltering birds, wings wet from feeding their young. A day in which this drawing arrived in lieu of words, in memory of my father’s death fifteen years ago:

“Canvas 43”
June 2, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Does it look like him? Yes. No. Exactly. Does it look like me? I believe so — at least it did at the time it was being drawn. Because now I look like someone else, someone more distinctly myself than even I had dared to imagine. Someone familiar, someone warm, someone someone might one day come to know — someone I’ve been all along, only more so.

I made lamb stew. I fiddled a bit with the main page of my website to accommodate links to some of the images and portraits scattered here along the sidebar. I crawled across the floor in a game with my grandson. Time takes its toll. I go willingly.

The Conversation continues.

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.

In the Forum: notes and more notes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Among the Living

William Michaelian
May 31, 2010
Salem, Oregon

Photo by Vahan Michaelian

[click to enlarge]

And another grateful nod to Kevin McCollister

Among the Living and Other Stories

Published May 2000

In the Forum: thin, picky, and sweet, plume or no plume.