Saturday, July 31, 2010

this will be

this will be the poem I write when I am dead

no shades of meaning and even less articulate

until you dig

                      and find

                              that words

               are bones

(first publication)

“this will be” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Madame de Sévigné’s letters.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Momo Luna: Silent Echoes

Silent Echoes
by Momo Luna
(Monica Croese)

Drawings 1994-2010

Blurb (2010)

Further proof that magic happens off the beaten path is Momo Luna’s lovely new book, Silent Echoes, just released through Blurb. Those of you acquainted with the artist through her blog are already aware of her talent and charm. She’s like a wicked-tender spirit of the night, lighthearted and serious at the same time, playful, mysterious, and intelligently naughty. In her own words:

My work is impregnated with mythology, but I love to change or knock over established realities. Often the angels in my work are malicious and the demons innocent. Gods, angels and demons often appear in my work. The humans are most of the time naked, so vulnerable, embodying emotions....

I consider my work figurative with a surrealistic touch. If you take a good look, you will discover multiple layers and depths....

All true — and the results are haunting, sometimes disturbing, and colorful in ways that might leave Mother Nature smiling and scratching her head, as if to say, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

The book, a beautiful glossy presentation of just under a hundred pages, is also graced with a sprinkling of brief poems and passages by the Holland-based artist. The words arrive unexpectedly, and pass like “silent echoes” from a dream or a fairy tale.

For complete publication information and book preview, click here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canvas 71

“Canvas 71”
July 25, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

In the Forum: sci-fi and J.G. Ballard.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Is that what I seek? Quite possibly, but not for the usual reasons — or so I tell myself. On most days, I’m content with my relative anonymity — and would, in fact, be content if it were as complete and silent as a grave, as it will likely one day be. I would sooner be a bird on a thistle, or a shock of windblown grain.

Recognition? The same.

Understanding? — maybe, in the way we understand a tree or an ocean.

What must be understood, and which in its very simplicity is even harder for many to grasp, especially in this superficial, commercial, and economically tough day and age, is that I really do write and make art for a living. Every so often, I’m asked privately what I “do” for a living. Well, this is it. This is my labor. This is my contribution. And yet I’m always stung by the assumption, and the painful, logical reality behind the question, the practicality, the blunt reason, as if the words had been uttered by my father, who long ago advised against pursuing such a course. Financially speaking, he was right — so far. And now he’s gone and I’m a grandfather.

And so, if there is any reason I would wish for fame, it would be to put food on the table consistently and reliably, and to make life easier for those who love me and believe in me.

I have done many things to survive, suffered the same fear, drudgery, boredom, and doubt that drives many of us insane. I have laughed through it, joked through it, wept through it, and cursed through it. And yet I’m fully aware that I’ve only scratched the surface of human suffering. The older family members on my father’s side survived the Armenian Genocide. Those who didn’t escape, perished — were slaughtered, or driven out to the desert to die. This is the source of my humor. I say this because I was taught how to laugh, how to hold up my head, and how to recognize hypocrisy by those very same survivors.

We need, in these our daily lives, to be much larger. We need to be great. Our fear of greatness, our misunderstanding of what it is and isn’t, and our mistaken idea that it’s out of reach keeps us small and thinking puny thoughts. Rich or poor, if we’re not defiant, if we’re too ashamed or embarrassed or self-centered to stand up and see and tell the truth, then why are we here? To reproduce? To be consumers and die in some arrogant damn fool’s war? To get ahead? To have more? Of what?

“Fame” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: “The Data-Reduced Loaf.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Times Arrived

In keeping with the title of her blog, my gifted artist-friend Aleksandra has freshened her template a bit, and also updated her post about her wonderful portrait to include more photos and background information. Such an amazing story — and I must say, I do feel bad in a way, somehow responsible for the suffering involved.

My thanks to all who have commented so far: Wanda, Elisabeth, Vassilis, Kevin, Ken, Laura, Steven, Erin, Crissant, and, of course, dear Aleks.

7.27.2010 #2
7.27.2010 #1 (dream)


When I awoke this morning,
my arms were tired. And I was glad,
because I had been so sure
of wing.


The Thing About Strawberries: 31 Dreams

In the Forum: when Proust comes home to roost.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Usual Suspects

[click to enlarge]

A batch of seven beautiful books, dated from 1881 to 1928, purchased yesterday morning at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Prices from $4.95 to $9.95. Still grieving for the ones we left behind. My son brought home a similar stack.

While we were there, we visited the rare book room. We held books in our hands from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Outside, on the sidewalk, a gray-bearded man with a new mandolin lifelessly strummed the same two or three chords. People were giving him money. About twenty feet away, a homeless man was holding a sign at the corner, still awaiting his first coins of the day.

On the way home, we talked about how so many people take their existence for granted — that is, they are so sure they exist that the thought that they might not really be here at all doesn’t even occur to them. Such a strange, strange way to live.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Second Face

The voice is a second face.

          —Gerard Bauer (1888-1967) Carnets

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms
Oxford University Press (1983)

“Canvas 69”
July 24, 2010

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 70”
July 24, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

In the Forum: night, death, the ocean.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Song

I was happy to be sown,
and I’m even happier to bloom,
but I still recall the warmth
of that little girl’s hand

and the wind, and what it did.

From Songs and Letters, originally published July 24, 2007.

7.24.2010 #2
7.24.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 68

“Canvas 68”
July 23, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

As the Conversation continues, Whitman brushes away the flies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Canvas 67

“Canvas 67”
July 22, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

In the Forum: Familiar Studies of Men and Books, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From a Faraway Friend

When I wrote about Aleksandra’s portrait yesterday, I referred to the artist as a dear friend. This new piece, just published on her blog, shows why. Please do read it. It’s the story behind the portrait, and so much more.


What it boils down to, really, is that we need to sing.
The sooner we start, the happier we will be.

The best death is a song on the lips.
The saddest is a live mouth stopped with dust.

(first publication)

“Conclusion” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: fishing and hanging around.

7.22.2010 #2
7.22.2010 #1 (recently linked)

Word Pond and New Times Arrived

A special thanks to Donna Fleischer for sharing the wonderful portrait by Aleksandra Komlenovic I posted yesterday. You can find it in this entry of her blog, Word Pond, which is always a worthwhile visit.

I’ve also added the portrait to the Image Archive, located in the sidebar beneath the blog archive. Clicking on the image will bring it up at its larger size; clicking on the artist’s name will take you back to yesterday’s entry, which also contains background and links to Aleksandra’s blogs.

Today in one of Aleksandra’s blogs, New Times Arrived, the artist shares several shots of the painting at various stages.

Thank you, Aleksandra!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

William Michaelian by Aleksandra Komlenovic

As some of you might remember, back in April, I shared a lovely drawing by Aleksandra, a dear friend of mine in Holland. I named the drawing A Mutual Friend, and it’s been safely in my care since its arrival, framed now and facing me from just a few feet to my left atop a small bookshelf. Whether or not you do remember, or if you happen to be one of the kind visitors still new to this blog, I hope you’ll take a moment and visit that entry.

Aleksandra is a wonderful artist. As further proof, I would like to share now an unfinished portrait begun well before she sent A Mutual Friend. As with every fine work, there is a story behind it. I’ve already spoken of our friendship. That’s part of it. But this painting, which seems so finished to me and which Aleksandra now defines as unfinished, really was finished, even to her high standards, quite some time ago. Then, as she was sealing it with a final coat of varnish before shipment to me here in Salem, something terrible happened. I still do not fully understand the details, except that the process drastically harmed the paint, leaving Aleksandra no choice but to begin again.

Ever since, I have felt the grief of that moment, the artist’s sudden shock and ensuing despair, even though I have never once doubted that she would rise to the challenge and triumph once again. Now we are almost there. Really, I think we are there. But Aleksandra is a perfectionist. She is still waiting for that certain moment, that last defining stroke, that speechless Yes to arrive from across the void that tells her when a work is done. That she’s willing to share the painting digitally now is a great honor.

William Michaelian

by Aleksandra Komlenovic


[click to enlarge]

Hoh Rain Forest

The day after we visited Hurricane Ridge, we followed Highway 101 west, then south, to the Hoh Rain Forest.

Hoh Rain Forest
July 20, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: Junk Poem Shop, Next Exit

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dover Thrift Editions

[click to enlarge]

We did manage to stop at one bookstore while we were in Port Angeles, a pleasant shop downtown on East First Street called Port Book and News. Our time was fairly limited, but I did come away with a nice batch of six Dover Thrift Editions. I’ve always loved this imprint — in fact, back at the hotel room, my son signed me up to receive several of Dover’s freshest catalogs, due out, I believe, in August.

7.20.2010 #2
7.20.2010 #1 (marginalia)


Yes, that’s exactly what I said — or, more accurately, bugled early yesterday afternoon from atop Saddle Mountain after an arduous two-and-a-half mile hike with my wife and son through mist and fog to the rocky summit. Beginning from the mossy parking lot seven miles off the main road, the ascent is a little over 1,600 feet — a climb steep enough to defeat casual hikers, especially above the tree line where the path is steepest and held in place by a wire mesh. Even in the fifty-degree air, I was soaked with sweat to the skin. The kid, of course, nearly sprinted his way up. His mother, also in excellent condition, followed, glancing occasionally over her shoulder to see if I’d had a heart attack. During one of our rests, not far from the top, I did say that I thought Saddle Mountain would be a fine place to keel over and die. But I thought better of it because of the inconvenience involved.

We saw wild roses, ethereal birches, fallen trees and rotting stumps bearded with tender plant life. Wildflowers scented the air. The view from the top, which, on a clear day, takes in the Pacific Ocean to the west and several Cascade volcanoes to the east, was completely obscured by blowing fog. Now and again, a nearby mountaintop appeared, then disappeared, well defined in a brief glimpse of blue.

There was a simple white cross just beyond the railing where someone, apparently, had taken a fatal step. Two sweaty and puffing young women had arrived before us. And before them, a couple of young men, who were sitting at a simple wooden table. Everyone was catching their breath and hoping the fog would clear. Then we were left alone, the three of us. That’s when I uttered my cry of Fevoop! — because I’m crazy, but, more importantly, in memory of my father and his Uncle Archie, who used to refer to Dad as a wise old elk, followed by a Fevoop! that set the sternum vibrating and made all things seem possible.

And, damn it, they were possible. They still are.

And here the sweet riddle of my dedication in No Time to Cut My Hair is finally revealed:

For Archie, Kirk, Willie, and Al — wise old elks and lovers of bullfrogs

Archie being Dad’s uncle, a painter, and poet; Kirk his opera-loving brother; Willie Saroyan their famous writer-cousin; and Al, the man who taught me, among countless other things, that honesty cannot, must not be compromised.

Once upon a time, in a world long gone and ever present, Archie, Dad, and I drifted down the Kings River in our twelve-foot aluminum boat, fishing. The high banks were lined with eucalyptus, leaves from which drifted and swirled near us on the water’s surface. And from somewhere, hidden in the shade beside a deep pool, a bullfrog called. Hearing it, Archie stomped his foot against the bottom of the boat, causing the frog to jump into the water. A simple happening, yet one that immediately entered the realm of memory and lore.

I am who I am by just such manner of holy accident. I am the frog just as it lands. I am the splash. I am a puff of smoke from Archie’s cigar. I am his laugh, his curse, and his paint-stained shirt. I am the fatal step, the abyss, and the feeble wind-worn cross.

Halfway down, we met a man and his wife on their way up. The man, a little older than me and less determined, said, “Did you make it to the top?”

I said, “Why, don’t we look like it?”

He quickly studied my wet, tangled hair and beard and laughed.

They were nice people. But there was no way in hell they were going to make it. And then I thought, One step among these flowers, one caress of these ferns, one deep breath, is enough.

And I will remember them as well. Maybe not as long, maybe not in the same way, but as fellow travelers.

Monday, July 19, 2010


In a meadow near a snowy ledge, I saw a raven teaching genesis.

        Do you think he’s mad?

                Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes...

(first publication)

“Meadow” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: glory in a trash heap.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hurricane Ridge

My wife and son took dozens of pictures at Hurricane Ridge. I took quite a few myself. Here’s one of them:

Hurricane Ridge
July 18, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments on my last entry. It’s very quiet here this Sunday morning, cloudy and cool, and I will savor them each over coffee and then later catch up on your blogs.

My thanks, also, to Janice for sharing news of my book, Primitive, with her readers while I was away.

Another recent entry, Handmade Booklets and Jewels, was kindly noted by Donna Fleischer on her site, Word Pond.

In the Forum: Coffee and books on Saddle Mountain?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now What?

That’s exactly what I’ll be pondering the next few days, in a different place, in other towns, through mountains on highways leading north, on forest paths, in strange restaurants, and maybe even a used bookstore or two. As I’ve told a few people privately, it’s been many years since my wife and I have traveled beyond the grocery store. Our lives and responsibilities simply haven’t permitted it. They scarcely do now, but since my mother’s care is in expert, dependable hands, we’ve decided to wager a full tank of gas against what remains of our sanity. To put it another way, worn to a frazzle, we’re at long last contemplating the possibility of coming up for air. Beyond that, the future remains unsure, as life with this writer has always been, and apparently must be if he’s to go on playing the game.

Our son will be traveling with us. In fact, we’re going in his car. Our destination, roughly, is Port Angeles, Washington, and the Olympic Forest. The name Hurricane Ridge has come up several times lately. It’s been a long time since I’ve stood on a mountaintop, even one only a mile high. I’ve hiked at twice that altitude, gasped in the thin air, tasted snow and ash, inhaled the mad scent of wildflowers. And I’ve looked upward from the valley floor, through heat and dust and fumes, at jagged, inaccessible peaks.

I do the same each day, here at my desk.

Changes. I can feel them in my bones. So many of my own, now, dead and gone. Other names on familiar mailboxes. Dead friends. Rusted bedsprings. Old trees down.

How many reams of paper to say I just don’t know? How many books? How many portraits with mournful eyes? Time will tell.

We’ll be leaving soon. I might check in while we’re on the road. But if I don’t, you have my thanks wherever I go.

In the Forum: a hint of mechanical daylight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kipling, Twain, Hawthorne, and London

[click to enlarge]

The set of ten are from the 1933 Orsamus Turner Harris “Punjab Edition” of Rudyard Kipling’s works, published in New York by Standard Book Company. Each book was a dollar.

The five Reader’s Digest editions are from the mid- to late-Eighties and in near perfect condition. Each book was two dollars.

In the Forum: unexpurgated Twain.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Handmade Booklets and Jewels

[click to enlarge]

Eight beautiful new titles,
just in from Longhouse Publishers in Vermont.

The photo is from this irresistible entry
of Bob Arnold’s fine blog, A Longhouse Birdhouse.

7.13.2010 #2
7.13.2010 #1 (excerpt from One Hand Clapping)

Freedom and the Leash

From One Hand Clapping, dated October 7, 2003:

I had heard it said that it is good to exercise one’s intelligence. Years ago, I took mine out for a walk. It was such a beautiful day, my intelligence broke its leash. I haven’t seen it since. But I still carry the leash, just in case. On a good day, the foregoing might have been a poem. Today, however, it is merely clever and irritating. Or am I too distracted at the moment to realize how brilliant it really is? Because, now that I think about it, it is really quite Zen-like. A person could meditate upon such a verse for hours. It is as tightly woven as a rock, and as light as a cloud. Maybe I should try another one. I had heard it said that it is intelligent to exercise. Years ago, I took a walk. It was such a beautiful day, I broke my leash. I have been free ever since. But my intelligence still carries the leash, just in case. Yes, yes. I do believe I’m on to something here.

In the Forum: silence, that intangible tiny hiatus.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Real Time

Every now and then, I wonder if I am already dead, and if what I am thinking at the moment is my brain’s last attempt to communicate and understand before it finally expires. I might be stretched out on the ground, or in my bed, murdered, the victim of an accident or a heart attack, bleeding on the pavement, surrounded by strangers, loved ones, or friends — or as yet unnoticed and alone, the unfortunate task of the first person who finds me.

It’s funny, in a way: Here I am, dead, and yet think I am alive, and that I am writing about wondering if I am dead — just after, or perhaps even during, the event of my death.

One day after school when I was in the fourth grade, my mother was waiting in our dingy-brown 1961 Chevrolet Impala in front of the building to take me to my piano lesson. As luck would have it, I was running on the sidewalk, then I slipped, fell, and momentarily lost consciousness just a few feet from the car. While I was out, my mind kept working. I saw myself climb into the car next to my mother, then I saw her pull away and start down the road, and then I saw us driving through the country to the white two-story house where my piano teacher lived.

When I opened my eyes, I was completely surprised to find myself still at school, and to learn that something that had happened had not happened.

Well. Apparently I am still alive, for I have been sitting here for some time. Or have I? Years ago, in a matter of just a few seconds, my brain created an entire trip down a country road. It is also known that long, complicated dreams can take place within mere moments of so-called “real time.”

Maybe this is a dream. Or, maybe you are the one who is dreaming. It might even be that we are dreaming together, that we are living inside each other’s dreams, and that those dreams are being lived inside an even larger dream — one that is infinite in its complexity and cosmic unimportance.

Yes, yes. I know. I could go on like this all day. Or, maybe I already have....

From Songs and Letters, originally published April 6, 2006.

In the Forum: Proustian blather.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Just as the flower
was confessing its faith
to the bee, it was claimed
by a gardener’s shear.

“How lovely.”

From Songs and Letters, originally published July 10, 2008.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Primitive: Selected Drawings in Pixel, Pencil & Pen

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

7 x 7 in. 80 pages.
Softcover: $34.95
Hardcover with dust jacket: $46.95

Another new book? Yes, I realize it’s crazy. In fact, as I stated here a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have pursued it otherwise. Primitive, I’m pleased to say, turned out beautifully. I really love the result. The images are crisp, the details are clear, and the premium glossy paper lends a vivid new aspect to the drawings. With this book in my hands, the eighty mad portraits inside are real in a way they’ve never been before. Even I am more real.

The collection begins with a foreword, in which I describe the background and development of these drawings. Believe it or not, this odd “style” of mine can be traced to the 1930s.

Primitive is widely available and easy to order. What do you say? Or am I the only crazy one?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Under Our Hats

From Songs and Letters, dated July 21, 2008:

If you pass by my window now and glance this way, you’ll see the top of the new straw hat I’m wearing. Why am I wearing it inside? Because it is new, and because hats should be worn. Because I’m nuts. Because every now and then I like to write with a hat on. Because I like hats. Because I’m partial to them. Because they remind me of other hats — my father’s, his father’s, my uncles’, my grandmother’s. Walt Whitman’s.

This particular hat cost seven dollars. About forty years ago, my father bought me one very much like it for eighty-nine cents at a little corner grocery store not far from where we lived. The store was owned by a man named Nakashima, whose wife once cut off the end of her finger while slicing baloney. I say once, but she could hardly have done it twice.

Ours was a farming community. The weather was hot. Hats were important and easy to come by. We lived under our hats. We dreamed under them, cursed under them, talked under them, planned under them, hurt under them, hoped under them, sighed under them, dozed under them, decided under them, quit under them, started under them, apologized under them, begged under them, lied under them, cheated under them, kissed our wives and girlfriends and children under them, disappointed each other under them, left home and never returned under them, listened to the birds in the trees under them, yelled under them, cried under them, got drunk under them, confessed under them, lost our minds under them, and some of us even died under them.

We also waited under them. We waited for trains, for buses, for airplanes, for loved ones, for insight, for babies alive and growing in the womb. We waited for the noon whistle and the Raisin Day Parade. We waited for rain, for wind, for any meaningful new sign. We waited for our pay. We waited for the war to end. We waited for things to change, but some never did.

We knocked on doors under them. Won’t you let me in?

A hat is a church, my friend.

In the Forum: a case of orange madness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Is Man?

A few recent acquisitions:

What Is Man? by Mark Twain. The Complete Works of Mark Twain, Volume XII. Harper and Brothers, New York (1917). 376 pages. $4.75.

Don Quixote, Part 1, by Miguel de Cervantes. Translated by Thomas Shelton. The Harvard Classics. P.F. Collier & Son, New York (1909). 545 pages. $1.50.

A reference work I can’t read, printed in Cyrillic in Moscow in 1963. Not a dictionary, not a thesaurus, but arranged alphabetically. 1,040 pages. $1.50.

The Jungle Books, Volumes 1 and 2, by Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated by Aldren Watson. Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York (1948). Vol. 1, 253 pages. $1.50. Vol. 2, 201 pages. $1.50.

Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benét, Volume Two (Prose). Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. (1942). 483 pages. $2.00.

Faulkner, O’Neill, Steinbeck. The Nobel Prize Library. Alexis Gregory, New York, and CRM Publishing, Del Mar, California (1971). Published under the sponsorship of the Nobel Foundation & the Swedish Academy. Contains presentation addresses, acceptance speeches, and author biographies. William Faulkner (1949 Prize): A Rose for Emily; As I Lay Dying. Eugene O’Neill (1936 Prize): The Emperor Jones; Homecoming. John Steinbeck (1962 Prize): In Dubious Battle. 375 pages. $2.99.

7.7.2010 #2
7.7.2010 #1 (poem)


Summer light
bare feet and arms

her last sweet peas
in a baby food jar

and other words

(first publication)

“Senses” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: from frost to squash in sixty seconds.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Somewhere in Norway

A special thanks to Bent Sørensen for presenting the title poem from my book, Another Song I Know, on his fine blog, Lumpy Pudding. When you visit, not only will you find the poem, but Bent’s new Danish translation, thus marking the first time work of mine has been translated into that language. What a great surprise!

I’ve been following Lumpy Pudding for over a year now. I also recommend Bent’s other blog, Ordinary Finds, where he treats visitors to photos and thumbnail sketches of notable people from the arts world and other walks of life. Links to both can also be found in the “Reading Room.”


My thanks, also, to Erin, author of the tiny leaf, for her amazing response to my recent Notebook entry, “My Father Walking, and Twenty-four Other Things.” I was about to respond when she did so for me in her post’s comment section:

and so after a ride on a country road and talking this out further, I slap myself in the head, for when I read William I made a very real and deep reaction and assumption that what he might hold back is horrible, for that is all that I choose to hold back. perhaps the stories he holds in bay are intimate or of a personal nature in some way that is so private....

Yes, that’s it exactly.

Note: I’ve received several comments on yesterday’s post and other recent entries that have yet to appear in the comment section. I assume Blogger will get it straightened out eventually. I will certainly respond when they do.

In the Forum: Pop, boom, bang, wait.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not Dying

This piece, also part of Songs and Letters, was written August 3, 2005. The friend referred to is Glen Ragsdale, the artist who did the painting that appears on my book, The Painting of You. You can read more about the work here.

[click to enlarge]

After my friend told me he was diagnosed with cancer and had been given a year and a half to live, we laughed at the idea — death seemed that distant, that unreal, that impossible. We were seventeen. I said I would be one of his pallbearers. He readily agreed.

It was dark and the stars were out. We were walking on the dusty service avenue in the middle of our farm, away from the house, through the quiet, with vines and trees all around.

Some days or weeks later, we went for a drive in his 1962 Ford Fairlane. For awhile we rode through town, up and down Main Street, past the drab prison also referred to as the high school, and back along L Street. Eventually, we ended up in the country, on the little piece of Avenue 412 that runs west from Alta Avenue, past Road 74, to Road 70.

No one else was on the road. We were talking about car engines when he suddenly became curious about his and pushed his gas pedal to the floor. When he finally let up, the speedometer read ninety-two miles per hour and we were rapidly approaching the stop sign at Road 70. He was completely calm. If there had been no stop sign, and if Avenue 412 had continued beyond that intersection, I’m sure he would have kept his foot down until the car reached its highest possible speed.

And yet I, too, was calm. In truth, for an eternal moment — a strangely blissful moment in which we were the only two people on the planet — I wondered if he was going to stop at all, and if we were going to die in a vineyard in a fiery crash.

In a way that’s hard to explain, the fact that we didn’t die was both a great relief and a great disappointment. But the feeling of disappointment immediately fell away, perhaps being tied to a sudden rush of chemicals in the brain and others charging through the body, bathing the cells, as it were, in the light of new understanding.

That trip together was symbolic of our friendship. In living or in dying, each knew the other would be there.

Time passed, and the universe continued to unfold.

One day, word came: My friend had finally decided to keep his foot down.

He sped away, alone.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Light Cannot Pass

Light cannot pass
between two hands
clasped in prayer

but it does wash
over them

and it runs
down the arms

and it drips
from the elbows

and it melts
like wax on the floor.

From Songs and Letters, originally published May 18, 2008.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Canvas 65

“Canvas 65”
July 1, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: One more thing about Caio Fernandes... generosity.

Canvas 64

“Canvas 64”
July 1, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: Hope and a saxophone.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Caio Fernandes: reductive

by Caio Fernandes
Blurb (2010)

Paper. 34 pages. 7 x 7. $14.00

The only thing better than a book containing the artwork of Caio Fernandes is another book containing the artwork of Caio Fernandes — especially if that book includes the artist’s thoughts about his life and work, and how they’re both, really, works-in-progress. I wrote a little about my impressions of Caio’s genius when his first book, The Pictorial Consequence, was released early this year. Everything I said then still holds true. But as much as I’m enjoying the paintings in reductive, I value the brief text even more. As the omnipotent ruler of Mein Welt, Caio is quite the entertainer. As an artist assessing his background and direction, however, he’s intrigued by his influences and phases and how they relate to his surroundings and states of mind. Along the way, he tells us where he’s been, without being quite sure of where he’s going. That, I believe, is the mission of every true artist — to never grow fat and comfortable, and to keep pushing into new territory. Caio is that kind of artist. He’ll relax you with his humor, and then knock you over with his vision. reductive is a beautiful book, beautifully produced.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Father Walking, and Twenty-four Other Things

From clutching a pencil in grade school and beyond, I developed a callous on the middle finger of my right hand. It’s still there, to the left and just below the nail, despite the fact that I’ve been typing almost exclusively for years.

When I was small, my father found a clump of white asparagus growing in the vineyard. He dug it out and planted it by our house well. It fed us faithfully each spring.

I remember my father
walking on the hard dirt avenue
at the end of the vineyard
rows behind our

the cuffs turned up
on his jeans, the dust and sticks
and weeds, his impatient
stride, having to run
to stay beside

that hot July when I was four
and he was thirty-seven,

but I don’t recall our destination,
or what he did when we
arrived, what I said,

or his reply.

Once, on a hot summer evening, I aimed a BB gun at our old wooden basketball goal and fired. The shot bounced back and hit me in the forehead. I fished it out of the dust and put it in my pocket. I don’t remember what I did after that.

When I was about ten, I took nine snails from the irrigation ditch that ran alongside the east end of our farm and put them in the aquarium on top of my chest of drawers. A few weeks later, the aquarium was teeming with snails.

My first car was a bicycle. My first bicycle was a scooter. My first scooter was a tricycle. My first bus ride was in a dusty red wagon.

One night, my mother’s Aunt Mildred took out her teeth and showed them to me.

In the kitchen during a family get-together, with my mother looking on, I ate a piece of uncooked marinated lamb intended for shish kebab. It tasted good and I didn’t feel ill at all, but I never did it again.

We grew all of our tomatoes back then, and bought all of our onions and parsley.

Same as now, there were stars in those days that had no need of names.

If I were a lizard on a woodpile, I would still be able to write, but I would do it differently.

If I were a pumpkin on a vine, I would want to face east so I could watch the sun rise.

If I were a faithful old hound, my name would be Bill.

Late one night, driving home with some friends from the mountains, I pulled off the road, stopped the car, and told everyone to get out and look at the stars. They did, in amazed silence. I wonder if they remember that now.

I still feel thrilled when I find a marble.

Back in his heyday, Willie Mays lived near my cousin’s house in San Francisco. We rang his doorbell. No one answered.

My father used to chase them when he was a kid, but I myself have never seen a roadrunner.

The first thing I smoked was a nickel cigar.

To this day, I feel funny referring to myself as a man. A man was always someone older, someone responsible. My father and grandfather were men. I am still a boy.

I cannot blow my nose using my right hand. It has to be the left.

I always tie my left shoe first.

I kick with my left foot.

The first poem I remember reading is “O Captain! My Captain!”

When I first started piano lessons, I used to sing with every note. The teacher told my mother I had perfect pitch.

There are some things that I will never write about. That, too, is how you will know me.

Notes: This entry was written at the suggestion of Cassie, a good friend and the very first follower of this blog. The poem “I Remember My Father Walking” was written April 3, 2007, and is part of my Songs and Letters. “My Father Walking, and Twenty-four Other Things” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: have library, will travel.