Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Dawn, n. 1. In summer, the time when one side of a tree is awake,
the other side asleep. Some say enlightenment begins this way,
then spreads, leaf by leaf by leaf. In winter, when the branches
of many trees are bare, they resemble the open arms of loved ones;
in spring, belief; in autumn, secrets kept for years. 2. An uncanny
explanation of the night. 3. That which follows grief. 4. A vast distance
measured in heartbeats or by the rhythm of wings. 5. The riddle
of an empty street. 6. What a child knows, but cannot tell.

From Songs and Letters, originally published August 12, 2007. Also appeared in Barbaric Yawp, September 2007, and here July 16, 2008.

In the Forum: an elf clutching a spatula.


Joseph Hutchison said...

This is brilliant, William! Perhaps the first of many illuminating entries quoted from your Poet's Dictionary!

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

William this one is special, you have hit my heart with the words about trees branches...
really love this poem

Woman in a Window said...

i try to imagine the mind that creates these poems and i always think of you as loose. i imagine a magician in the nineteen-teens, maybe twenties, just because of the clothes i imagine you in. you are practicing. you shake out your fingers to be loose. you will try to run at a wall and move your cells through the wall's cells. it doesn't matter if you do or do not make it through the wall, what matters is that you believe you will. you are loose. you can pass through walls. and you do, each time i read you, you pass through mine.


Two Tigers said...

7. something recurringly beautiful that chases away shadows, e.g. a new post by William.

Aleksandra said...

"What a child knows but cannot tell"........
the list of an artist applied in no particular order as a mantra for immortality.....forever .....
love this very much! Thank you! :)

don't be emily said...

I am adding this to my order list of words that I want painted on old pieces of wood and hung in very nearly every square inch of space in my house. :) How on earth does your heart find the words for these things over and over again?

word verification: fruffins :)

vazambam said...

It just dawned on me:

Dawn, n.7. As in William Michaelian's aurora.

William Michaelian said...

Amazing. If there’s a better way to illustrate the good fortune that’s come my way since this blog began, I don’t know what it is. I retrieved this entry from the archive because it’s one of my personal favorites, and one shared so early in the life of this blog that it was seen by almost no one. I’ve thought of republishing it here before, as well as a few others, but I hate to repeat myself. As it is, just hearing myself talk is enough to put me to sleep. But I’m glad now that I made an exception.

Joe, “Dawn’s” questionable “brilliance” aside, I do believe it’s the first of my poetic “definitions.” And it was you who later put me on to the idea of adding that department to Recently Banned Literature. Thanks.

Laura, thank you. I’m delighted. If I hadn’t seen the photos you posted recently, I might not have republished “Dawn.”

Erin, I almost always wear black. I don’t feel right in any other color, except where it pertains to the floppy gray hat that appears in Rahina’s portrait and recent photos. The hat covers the lumps and scars on top of my head, which come from years of ramming it against the wall. But sometimes, when I least expect it, I do find myself on the other side. Also, there are times when I’m sitting here that I put my ten fingertips together ever so lightly — really — and feel a kind of weird communication going on between them. My imagination running away with me, no doubt.

Gabriella, you are kind and inspiring both. I mean it. Thank you.

Dear Aleksandra, I love it when the child inside you leaps with joy. It’s beautiful to see, and an honor to know you.

Katie Fruffins — what a great name for the heroine of a children’s book. I love your home decorating idea. Regarding my heart, I have a simple answer: there’s little in my head to distract it.

Vassilis, I think the correct term in my case is Aurora Boreallofus, which is exactly what will happen if I continue to blather on. But your brief light verse has reminded me of another — this from your friend and mine, Nikos Kazantzakis, as translated by Kimon Friar (yet another friend), as it appears at the beginning of Book V, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel:

The sun turned toward his mother, and his mother, frightened,
rushed to light all her ovens at the sky’s foundations
and cast in forty loaves of bread to feed him well.

-K- said...

I haven't read anything like this in a long, long time.

rahina q.h. said...

i love this... you should write a poet's dictionary William (if you haven't already)

Alberto Oliver said...

And then again, your pen (or rather your keyboard) wrote some words, they became alive and then flew away like birds.
and let me share you a secret dear friend. Everytime I come here to visit you and read your lines, surprise and impression snatch my few and limited means for expressing my self the proper way, leaving me in a state of reflexion that last, until the next post. And so on.
I attempted to break the cycle today, but one thing is sure, my mouth(or rather my hands) become mute, dumb indeed, but not my brain neither my soul, they sparkle in joy evrytime
And neither my face as it also smiles.
Receive my best regards William.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Kevin. I’m pretty sure I haven’t written anything like it either. Except that in certain inevitable ways, everything I write is like everything else I write, or at least is somehow related. Although I imagine there are a few black sheep. Also a few that want nothing to do with me.

Rahina, I haven’t, and I must say it sounds like an awful lot of work. The projects I like best are the ones I wake up in the middle of, unsure of when or where I started. Or the ones that start themselves while I stand by and watch. Or the ones that drag me through the street and say, “Will you just look at this fool!”

Alberto, you don’t leave a comment, you leave a gift. And receiving it here this morning, I know it will be with me all day. So don’t ever underestimate your words, or your silence. They all sing. Thank you.

Old 333 said...

Well, I can only wax encomial with limited grace, and others here have filled the space with words of praise; I'm left bereft(and should be charged with rhymechryme) - your piece today was marvellous, William, recycled or not.

William Michaelian said...

Peter, it’s neither flimflam nor spam when I say I am pleased by your chryminal remarks.

don't be emily said...

Thanks for the new pen name Willy!:)

Paul L. Martin said...

Beautiful, just beautiful, William. I am reminded of one of my favorite Psalms:

“If I take the wings of dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast,
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light’—
For you darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day.
[Darkness and light are the same.]”
Psalm 139:9-12

Only you can make poetry from a "dictionary entry." I am reading "Dawn" late at night. Ironic.

William Michaelian said...

Miss Fruffins, may I have your autograph?

Paul, this passage reminds me of a line from a poem I wrote years ago:

darkness was not dark until light was born

I wish I could find it, but it’s in Songs and Letters and I can’t remember the title at the moment.

And, ironically, I’m writing this in the dark, to the tune of half a dozen street lights.

Thank you.