Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Are intelligence and wisdom two different things?
I don’t know. Ask the heart.

And what of knowledge?

Is it a black cat on a moonless night,
or the visible part of a mountain?

Think long; think low;
for deep were the eyes of Maud Rudell.†

Hillsborough,1881-1900. With thanks to Robert Willson.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A star for a mouth? Can you imagine the vast regions beyond?
And why Correggio, if not for the sound from your tongue?


November 29, 2011

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Monday, November 28, 2011

So Much Like Now

When you find this grave in the ragged ground,
remember me to Winter.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold when a carriage rattled by,
cold in bright Missouri,
cold in Kansas and Ohio,
cold on the shores of Maine,
cold in Carolina,
cold in Wyoming and Montana,
cold upon the plain,
cold behind the woodshed,
cold inside the barn,
cold in the bright-red schoolhouse,
cold in the white-washed church,
cold in the corner store,
cold on the warehouse floor,
cold in the mines and mills,
cold on the water, cold in the factories,
cold on the rails, cold in the hills.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold in my bones,
cold inside my collar,
cold in my lungs and fingers,
cold inside my skull,
cold on the marble stone,
cold where good men
walked and talked
and smoked and listened,
cold where liars cheated
and thieves spat upon the ground,
cold at noon and in the star-filled evening,
cold where laughter waited
and grew old in the dance,
cold upon the cross,
cold at the gates of Hell,
cold when the lot was drawn,
cold when my name was called.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold but not unforgiven,
cold with beauty unrelenting,
cold with magic all around.

[From Winter Poems, Cosmopsis Books, 2007]

Note: Through the end of the year, all three of my Cosmopsis titles are available at a 10% discount. Use the following coupon code in your Cosmopsis Bookstore shopping cart: H7E99

Here are the store links:

A Listening Thing (Novel, Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition)
Winter Poems (Poetry)

And here are links to some thoughtful reviews:

A Listening Thing, by Paul L. Martin

by Russ Allison Loar

And for a few of the shorter comments filed by readers here and on Facebook,
visit the Cosmopsis Books page on my website.

Thank you!

Friday, November 25, 2011


We call them monitors, screens, pads, devices. But somewhere deep inside, we know they are nothing more than old cave walls.

Dream Face

November 25, 2011

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Chosen Ones

If we cannot love everything and everyone,
can we, truly, love anything or anyone?

In choosing whom or what we love (if such choice were possible),
do we not proclaim that our judgment is larger than life itself?

Is not that choice an illusion?

If we love only what we think we love, are we not, then,
defining love and placing on it certain limitations?

Would it not be better to be defined by love,
than to try to define it?

Are we so small in our uncertainty and fear that we must love
only that which pleases us, or which we think reflects well on us,
or which loves us in return? If so, how can we call that love?

It is a grave error we make in thinking that anything exists
outside of love.

Can you, in your deepest thought and contemplation,
say which part of you loves and which does not?

If you say the mind loves, or the heart loves,
or that love is harbored in various glands and organs,
what, then, of the rest of you? Are parts of you worthy
or unworthy of love? Is love necessary to one part,
but not to another?

Is love a condition that changes with history,
time, and weather?

And what of the insane?
Are we love’s orphans, love’s abandoned step-children?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ask yourself

I, too, could take sides and share pictures of the violence. But being superior to no one and inferior to no one, I look at my own heart and behavior instead, and see the victim and perpetrator there. I also see a tragic, beautiful thing called the human race, traveling through space, one part galaxy, another part rock — dust, flesh, and sun combined. Whom shall I despise? Those who pull the trigger, or those who teach their children that there will always be guns in the world? Those who steal in large amounts, or those who steal in small? To be fair, would I not have to despise everyone, including myself? When was the last time you left food on your plate; took advantage of someone; were inattentive or cruel to loved ones or friends; accepted pay for less than your best work? Ask yourself. If you do, you will understand the repetitive cycle of human events. You will recognize yourself in those who are in positions of wealth and power, and in the whores and panhandlers it is so convenient to shun. No, I will not take sides. Because there is only one. It is either we or none.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For better or worse

It would be a strange biography indeed,
in which we could not find or see ourselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy Yourself

As we drift toward the holiday season — or are dragged kicking and screaming — it seems only right to announce a money-saving opportunity you might be interested in. Through the end of the year, Cosmopsis Books is offering a 10% discount on purchases store-wide. This makes the beautifully printed edition of my novel, A Listening Thing, even more of a bargain. It also means that my two poetry volumes, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, are more affordable than they’ve ever been. Buy one, buy two, or buy all three — either way, you can’t go wrong. I’m proud of these books and stand behind them. They are also gift-worthy in every sense, so these might be just right for the readers among your family and friends. Or, simply treat yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did.

To take advantage of the discount, use the following coupon code in your Cosmopsis Bookstore shopping cart: H7E99

Here are the store links again:

And here are links to some thoughtful reviews:

A Listening Thing, by Paul L. Martin

And for a few of the shorter comments filed by readers here and on Facebook,
visit the Cosmopsis Books page on my website.

Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2011


To know not if, when, or where it’s been,
and almost glimpse its passing


November 18, 2011

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Thursday, November 17, 2011


As happens with dreams,
I’ve lost the part between the peaceful place
where two roads crossed and soft horizon beckoned all around,
and being chased by a whale along sheer cliffs.

When I awoke, I was treading air made wet
by the whale’s breath — saved at four a.m. by the sound
of rain against the window.

I’ve been up reading ever since.

At the crossroads, my youngest son was there.

This house could be a ship.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



November 16, 2011, 5:30 a.m.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Lieu of Content

For the time being, at least, a grainy black-and-white version of a photograph I posted here serves as a background for these entries. The change necessitated a few other minor adjustments, and perhaps one or two more are needed, although dynamite is another possibility.

Leopold Staff: Foundations

I built on the sand
And it tumbled down,
I built on a rock
And it tumbled down.
Now when I build, I shall begin
With the smoke from the chimney.

We gather insight and take our inspiration as we go. I’m no different. A lovely poem like this one crosses my path, written by a man who died the year after I was born. I make no notes, jot down no reminders to investigate further. Quite possibly I will remember: his name; that he was Polish; his modernist connection. But I won’t be able to tell you what a modernist is, or a Pole for that matter. In my mind he is another man who lived, and who tried to make sense of that experience through words. Later, if I happen on his name in a used bookstore, if I find it, perhaps, in a musty old anthology, I will take that as my cue to renew my appreciation. And I will remember once again that he was born in the same year as the poet Carl Sandburg, and the widely unknown farmer who was my mother’s father, that steady man who chopped kindling, ever wary of his hernia.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Know

I am not a man of knowledge. What I know is what finds me, not what I pursue. I’m organized in my work — more so, I’d wager, than most. And yet I have no systematic way of learning. In school I was a poor student. But my time there wasn’t wasted, because it was given over entirely to observation. The subjects of that observation included myself, through all kinds of foolishness and mental weather; indeed, I was present even when I tried most not to be, when oblivion called and darkness rimmed my soul. For I was the source of that darkness, just as I am the recipient of what little light I know. I am a dim lamp in a dark room; a candle burning down; and yet the candle smiles, consumed and warmed by what it knows.

What I know will not die with me; what will die will be my way of knowing it, my funny way of arriving at the truth. These lines you read and books I write, if they do survive, will be evidence that I tried. They will show how far I was willing to go, and the limits I placed on my own honesty — my self-made shackles and chains, if you will. And it’s but the rattle of those chains that you hear now. To listen well is to love the silence when I set them down. To love well is to recognize your own.

Image: Illustration from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, by Fritz Eichenberg.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Loneliness is not in being alone, for then ministering spirits
come to soothe and bless — loneliness is to endure
the presence of one who does not understand.

From Little Journeys, Vol. 3, by Elbert Hubbard,
on the mother of Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Like everything I write and draw, I, too, am open to interpretation. And like you, I can only imagine, and can never quite be certain, what it is, if anything, that I withhold. And therein lies our strength and bond, which is not undone, even in its passing. Even if they remain unspoken, the disasters in our lives, the trials and despair, are all revealed in one way or another. If I say I love you, it is because I have already known love and lost everything, like so much grain in my hand to the wind. And if I share in your joy, it is because joy, too, is my teacher and companion.


November 12, 2011

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Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bright Sun-Shiny Day

Armen Karaoghlanian and William Michaelian

I really like this picture. It was taken here earlier this year on the sixteenth day of August, when I had the good fortune to meet Armen and his lovely girlfriend, Mary, who was kind enough to record the moment. Armen and I have been in touch for quite some time. We met online over a short story of mine called “I Feel Like I’m Falling.” A director with heart and a keen eye for detail, Armen plans to make a film based on the piece.

In addition to his film work, Armen also writes for Yerevan Magazine, where he’s in charge of “From the Vault,” a new cinema series in which he discusses Armenian films and filmmakers, and focuses on forgotten gems and classics.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Good Hands

Florian C.A. Czech

A special thanks to Florian Czech for sharing this photo. Florian is the winner of our recent drawing for Copy #100 of my novel, A Listening Thing. As you can see, the book arrived safely and is in good hands in its new home in Austria.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Florian, I heartily recommend that you visit his blog, where he shows off many of his wonderful photographs. Fisch is a recent favorite of mine, but I urge you to spend some time in his archive, and in the various departments listed near the top of his page.

Thank you, Florian!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


All the little things — I love
how they break and throw off sparks.

I was a sower once; in my pouch,
there were ten thousand suns.

In those days, I was man
and woman both.

I am still. Hold me
to the light.

Turn me gently
in your palm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three Poems and War

Something I will be thinking about today: my poems “Almanac” and “Traveler” alongside “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’” by Thomas Hardy, placed in context with a letter by Giacomo Conserva.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

While Dynasties Pass

With thanks to Giacomo Conserva


I’m beginning to think
like this jade plant in the mist

a jeweled leaf for each
passing kingdom.

From Songs and Letters, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 4, 2011


In life he asked for bread; when dead they gave him a costly pile of stone.

From Little Journeys, Vol. 1, by Elbert Hubbard,
on visiting Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Yesterday afternoon
I put our garden space to bed.

One rake, one shovel, and half a yard
of damp, composted dairy manure.

Sweat on my neck and arms,
back, chest, legs, brow.

Leaves from the neighbor’s dogwood tree
in my hair and beard.

Today, I am ready for anything.

Even the death
of fear.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Poet Making Scrambled Eggs

A poet making scrambled eggs
imagines chickens scratching in the yard,
warm sun upon a never-painted fence,
an old dog napping on the porch
stoically resigned to all its fleas.

He feels the breeze on his arms
as he wields his axe behind the barn
with an angry rooster looking on.

By the time the frying pan is warm,
a poet making scrambled eggs
has scattered grain on barren ground
and chopped a pile of good dry kindling.

When he beats the eggs inside a bowl,
he hears church bells ringing — looks up,
half-expects to see his great-grandfather
sitting at the table in somber Sunday clothes.

A poet making scrambled eggs
picks up a lump of cheese and sees
a meadow and a stream beyond the farm,
sad willows bending down to shield
young love’s embrace with modest hands.

When he lifts his meal from the pan,
a poet making scrambled eggs
no longer knows his name or cares.

Instead, he wonders at the years
that led him here, the folly and the pain,
and the food that tastes so good.

[From Songs and Letters, February 26, 2006]

She Intrudes

A new chapbook from Ed

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Daily Miracle

Before I announce the winner of our drawing for Copy #100 of A Listening Thing, I would like to share, with thanks, a beautiful comment left by Joseph Hutchison on an entry by Vassilis Zambaras that I’m sure many of you will remember:

William’s book is hard to describe, isn’t it? Reading it is like looking into a springtime brook: the impression is of clarity, motion, depth and reflection, with many layers of sound (a poet’s prose) — such that one looks up from the page with that pleasant sense of disorientation we get when we look up from the flowing water and try to take in the trees on the opposite bank. I like that because it reminds me that the whole Earth is flying on under our feet: the daily miracle. How does William/Stephen do it? On the one hand, I wish I knew; on the other, I don’t care to know. It’s enough that his book refreshes the healing pleasures of being and feeling alive.

Frankly, despite this generous characterization and others like it, I was surprised that so many people entered the drawing for a free signed copy of my novel. We’ve all been through it: what we offer, while important to us, often passes without comment, leaving us to wonder at its worth. It might well happen with this post. That’s why, anymore, when I entrust something to cyberspace, I simply let it go as if it were a baby bird or butterfly. I’ve done my best; now it’s time for it to fly or fail on its own.

Briefly, the statistics: twenty-nine people entered their names in the drawing; of that number, sixteen are readers new to the book; thirteen have already purchased one or more copies and have read, or are still reading, or are about to read, the words of our embattled-but-not-embittered Everyman, Stephen Monroe.

Also, since I announced the drawing more than a week ago, one more copy has been sold. This means that there are, at the moment, forty-nine copies left of the numbered first printing — something to think about, perhaps, especially as the holiday season approaches.

And now, live from the Used Book Room
at the fabulous Michaelian Club,
here are the names in my hat:

And here, after mixing and stirring and closing my eyes,
is the name of our winner:

Congratulations, Florian!
We’ll make the arrangements, and your signed copy will be in the mail soon!

In the meantime, my thanks to each and every one of you who entered the drawing and made it such a wonderful experience. I wish you all could have won!