Monday, October 15, 2012

The Clown

One intriguing aspect of my life is that even now, at the ripe and reasoned age of fifty-six, I don’t know if I’ve made a single major decision — that is, the kind of decision we generally associate with a change in direction, the advent of deeper understanding, or memorable accomplishment. I don’t say that decisions weren’t made. I simply can’t say with any certainty that I’m the one who made them; for I think it’s every bit as possible, if not likely, that the important decisions in my life were made by life, and that I am here expressly to abide by them and do its will.

Now, a peculiar part of all this is that I still feel responsible for the outcome. And yet I’m here by a force beyond my control, imprinted with characteristics I had no say in acquiring. Only in growing up, only in being taught that some characteristics are useful and good and that others are best subdued, was I able to find a place first in my family, and then in the world around me. In other words, I was taught honesty and survival.

It’s a hard thing, survival. One reason it’s hard is that honesty is lacking in so many. And remember, honesty isn’t really honesty if it has limits, and is reduced to a matter of expediency.

Are human beings capable of complete honesty? If our religions, philosophies, and political systems are any indication, it would appear that we have our serious doubts, or, at the extreme, are willing to believe we aren’t — a big difference; the difference. But it must also be remembered that vast numbers of us, in our deadly grace and poetic ignorance, sincerely mean well. So maybe we do believe, but are afraid of the consequences.

It’s quite possible that you are in control of your life; whether you are or not isn’t for me to say. I only know that I’m not in control of mine. I’m proud of some of the things I’ve done, and embarrassed by others. I’ve written poems and books, but I hope my best is yet to come. If any or all of this has come about through decisions I’ve consciously or unconsciously made, I own up to them. If they’re the result of decisions made for me, then I hope to better understand that process.

I don’t believe what countless others are willing and content to believe. I don’t believe what they are afraid not to believe. I don’t believe in me. I just act accordingly. The hand I hold out, the blood within that gives it warmth, the image of this aging mind and body reflected by the mirror, the memories I recall, the timeless sense of flight I feel, are as so many leaves in the wind. Of this, I’m glad. I don’t know how not to be. Should this deem me laughable to some, I join in your laughter. For it is just such a tragedy that I love.


Stream Source said...

Whenever I read your work, my mind gets very busy. Is it my mind or my heart or that mysterious muse you describe? No matter. I hope to find enough silence in my world to respond to this in more depth. If not, consider it done, as is. And thank you for having given me, this much.

L.W.Roth, said...

I did a sculpture once of a hand of cards, a card spread. I did it because I think we're all dealt a hand to play and we play it as life at the time dictates. We draw from the deck and we discard hoping we've maneuvered a win. We think there is free will, but the next card we draw manipulate our next play. Prepositional phrases are everywhere and always overused, always needed to explain. Now look at where your words have pushed me!

erin said...

and so love and compassion and a keen sense of humour are in order))))


William Michaelian said...

I thank you, Donna. I’m honored, and moved, too, that you feel this way.

Well, Linda, wherever that is and wherever it leads, let’s cherish our deck of fifty-one.

Always, Erin. In fact, I can’t imagine one without the other.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

My favorite aphorism (by me) is:

Nothing I planned ever happened,
and everything that happened I didn't plan.


Gary B. Fitzgerald said...


When once the changing world we understood,
whose laws we knew were permanent and clear,
when once distinct the shades of bad and good
and fear was all we thought we had to fear,

when once a narrow path before us lay,
straight and unobstructed by illusion,
when once our destination was plain as day
and we were never troubled by confusion

it was then that we were young and then we knew
a simple world observed with simple eyes,
but as we lived and learned and older grew,
the less we understood and so grew wise.

For wisdom is no more than finding true
that, after all, we never had a clue.

Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Broke Even

I live a break-even life.
For every dime I’ve had, I lost one.
Every time I needed twenty bucks
it always came my way,
but for every extra twenty found
there was twenty owed to pay.

I worked hard and made some money,
but lived from day to day.
If I subtract all that I’ve saved
from what I’ve borrowed,
my debts from what own, then I’m
always back to zero, and for every
hundred bucks left over, a broken car
or electric bill ensured it went away.

Born naked and so die, they say,
from dust to dust.
At the end we basically all break even.

Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD: 77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Oh, what the hell...I'm on a roll.

DNA Quantum

Ancient demons plague us,
have burrowed deep inside us.
They hide within our bones,
twist and curl between sinew and flesh.
They live inside our hearts
for they are ancient.

Old enemies who torment us,
enact their mischief through us.
We can see their evil clearly
and the harm they cause is known.
They are deep within our bodies
and only when we die do we escape them.

We all know what is good and right,
but despite ourselves cause pain.
We are selfish and thoughtless and angry,
greedy, dishonest and vain.

It is the work of ancient demons,
primitive and base, with ancient names.
But they show a modern face,
though have been among us always,
these demons that plague us,
living deep inside our mind and blood.
An ancient enemy that calls our soul home,
lifted with us from the mud,
an ancient enemy with an ancient name:

Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Quantum DNA

We live in a jungle of tangible ghosts
that dance on the crest of a luminous wave,
a forest of spheres that balance and bob
in the currents that cross the vast phantom sea.
The jungle is dark, shadowed and deep;
it is wild and a dangerous place for
within it lurk beasts that are hungry and driven.
The orphaned spawn of a monster race,
mindless machines, though quick and complex,
molecular robots who serve only themselves.
They thrash in the jungle, godless and blind;
their sole reason for being to continue to be.
Deadly and ruthless, they destroy all they find
and all that gets in their way.
How do the living so easily destroy what lives?

They guard the great palace
in the heart of the jungle
in which hides the magic
that turns night into day.

The seed of religion.

Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

William Michaelian said...

Suffice it to say, Gary, your favorite aphorism has been gloriously illustrated. Nice to hear your voice again.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

As you have probably surmised, you have touched upon an issue (ontological mystery) that is dear to my heart. I was going to post all 300 poems I have written on the subject but I figured it would probably be easier if you just read my books.


Jan said...

There are those that have written that before we are born the road that we travel on in life is preordained. We may choose to take a different route from time-to-time to see what else is out there, but ultimately we find our way back to that main road and travel on until we reach the end.

Your words always touch my soul, William. Thank you~~~

William Michaelian said...

Gary: Probably so, but as a fellow nut I’m glad you found something here that coaxed you out of your shell.

Jan, thank you, as always. It’s the mystery we need, and the mystery we love.

Ed Baker said...

well and good you've just provoked my me to write another novel:

everywhere i go
there I am

(then to continue this narrative):

if it wasn't for my imagination
I wouldn't get no sex ... at all

when my dad died I was there... the last thing he said was:
"I'm dyeing"
I replied: "enjoy the trip"

10 years ago he died laughing.....

nice post ... now ? off to the County Liquor Store for a six-pack of cheap Buddha Beer3

William Michaelian said...

Ah, and here’s to a good day, a good end, a good trip, a good imagination, and a good novel. Thanks, Ed.

Brad C. Thome said...

So nice to read another piece from you William...!
I think we are all responsible for the outcomes which come about,
as it is our decisions which set the events in motion to begin with,
and if those decisions happen to be dis-honest,
then we will reap the rewards accordingly,
hence the state of affairs on the societal level,
as the crux of this system is definitely NOT honest to begin with...aka MONEYE

but it will change,
it is changing....
slowly but surely...

be well my friend...!

: )

William Michaelian said...

You too, Brad, and your beautiful family. Thank you. For some odd reason, your response reminds me of A Listening Thing. What we set in motion today must inevitably play out, close to home and in the world at large. When a defenseless child becomes responsible for the outcomes in his or her life, of course, is a matter of gradual understanding, partly influenced by the individual’s wiring and surroundings — an understanding which, sadly, never arrives for far too many people. Likewise, money itself isn’t the culprit; rather, it’s our foul relations with that greatly misunderstood commodity. In other words, it’s our motives and inner ugliness that are destructive, of which money is just a symbol. But it’s also a symbol of our reliance on one another — the trading of gifts, if you will, in the marketplace. One brings carpentry, another, bread; one brings the ability to teach, another, paintings or poems.

-K- said...

It's an ongoing shortcoming of mine to be unable to see that "vast numbers of us, in our deadly grace and poetic ignorance, sincerely mean well."

William Michaelian said...

Ah, well, this is not to say that vast numbers of us aren’t also rotten. To see anything, one must see both. In the meantime, I hereby declare this Stephen Monroe Day.

lettersconcerning said...

Hello William. I'm not sure I agree with you. It's true, I think, that life happens to us whatever (whether we plan, go with flow, make decisions, have decisions made for us)but I think we are always free to choose our reactions to such decisions and happenings. In that sense we are in control; we make of the world what we will.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Isabelle, it’s nice to hear from you again. And I see you have a new blog — wonderful.

I’m not comfortable with “always,” even and perhaps especially when it seems so. A simple paucity or over-abundance of this or that chemical in the body or brain can cripple our choosing with or without our knowing it. An event from childhood, forgotten or buried, can have a profound influence, again without our being aware. Hunger, danger, fear, an unstable, crumbling environment — any or all of these can impair our ability or even our desire to choose.

Ultimately, though, I know only how it seems to me. I live more in mystery than I do in certainty.

lettersconcerning said...

Hmm, I'm not negating the influence of past events, hidden or otherwise but rather I think it's a philosophical 'always'; it's an existential always. As Sartre said we are , in effect, by the very nature of existing, condemned to be free...

Ed Baker said...

all your philosophical systems are
phony bologna... especially Sartre

all of these Absolute definitions
trying to make the Abstract something
so that we can control/manipulate/ and profit from it ?

(I sure hope that this comment-blog-program doesn't re:format this comment it s ubiquitous "one-size-fits-all" is rather ...... boring.

William Michaelian said...

Ha — beautiful. Isabelle and Ed, do you know what I love? I love how, even when we’re sure we’re speaking or writing in such a way that our meaning is clear, the result can be understood or misunderstood in many different ways. Now, thinking itself is made of words; it follows, therefore, that these different interepretations also take place in our own reasoning (for lack of a better word). In other words, we don’t always know what we think, or why we think it — or how we think, and not always even when we think, especially when we consider the habitual repetitive nature of what so often passes for thinking. In the end, much of our thinking is dead, and the repeated act of exhuming and burying it wears us out.

Ed Baker said...

what else are we but our
thinking our memories

& : does thinking make "it" so ?

I thinks DesCarte had it backwards _
I subscribe to

I am therefore I think

on top of that

if it wasn't for my memory
(these days)
I wouldn't get no sex !

Ed Baker said...

it is ridiculous how this program of yours
re:formats EVERYTHING

it not only moves phrases over and eliminates open spaces which are a form of (my) punctuate process (breathing
what is worse it moves EVERYTHING
to the left margin !

GEESH ! my previous comment IS NOT how I wrote or thunk it !

William Michaelian said...

Very funny — this program of mine. But it’s amusingly symbolic of what I was saying. Anyway — I don’t know. Maybe we are only our thinking and our memories — at least as long as we’re in possession of, and possessed by, them. But then there are things, perhaps, that the body in its own wisdom knows. Not that the brain isn’t part of the body; but we might also see it in terms of being another of our senses, in that when it fails, others will step to the fore. My mother’s thinking and memory is gone, yet there she is, like so many others, yet still in many ways true to herself.

Ed Baker said...

my mother died in 2009 Alzheimer's
she was 94

she for the last 4 or 5ive years
didn't know who I was or, seemingly,

she just made herself comfortable
as best that she could

I think losing one's memory is both a
defensive function of "self" AND

a natural way to transition into the next realm / reality that no system or dogma can accommodate ?

wasn't trying to be funny ... just
... trying

William Michaelian said...

Well, I suppose we’re funny whether we try or not — but that could just be my warped outlook.

And if I remember correctly, you have a copy of The Painting of You; if so, you know (or have at hand) the background where my mother is concerned.

A defensive function might certainly be involved; and your thought about transition feels good.

Ed Baker said...


have it here

for the second time in 40 years
I've re:arranged my books and I
don't remember where the heck I
put it

next time I re-arrange
will be in alphabetical order

then, all I'll need to recall
is the author's name

William Michaelian said...

Good. At least you have a reliable system.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...


Like Smells

Unexpected scent of brine, of sea,
floats on breeze pushed here from far,
a cool though short refresh
of memory, of sail and sun and sky,
a momentary lapse that swells the heart.

A sweet trail of perfume passes on the street,
a second’s lull, a breath, a taste of
unfulfilled desire, maybes unrequited,
an anxious incense on the air that may remind
but quickly erased and soon forgotten.

Hot garlic bread and roasting chicken,
an instant’s flavor. Jasmine vines and roses,
a barely remembered recognition
and a thought. Perhaps, even, the stench
of death, of something rotten.
A momentary shock.

Powerful, these, like smells, but always brief
and mostly left behind.

Copyright 2008 – Softwood: Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald


A Canadian girl, she was buried in Texas.
Adopted, she thought maybe she was Dutch,
but she had a Scottish name.
Still, she looked so Irish in the casket.
She had an Irish heart…loved poetry
and horses and song and after all those years
of living, it didn’t mean a thing.
She never did get home, wherever it may have been.
I guess if you’re just buried somewhere in the Earth
it’s basically the same.

Copyright 2008 – Softwood: Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald


A Texas boy, but he was buried in Natchez.
Born of our mother and father,
Irish, sure (and maybe Dutch).
But he looked so dead in the casket.
I remember that time in Paris,
you ten, I but five, you picked me up
at school. You left me alone on the corner
near Notre Dame because I made you
so mad about something.

And that time up in Finland,
you almost twenty, I but fifteen,
we went out to eat. I broke both
of our special walking sticks over my knee
because you made me
so mad about something.

We got those sticks above the Arctic Circle
from that little chapel in Enontekio with
that famous mural of Christ appearing in the blizzard
like a spirit of light from the snow.
We had agreed to bring them home,
keep them forever to remind us.
You were so upset that you stomped off,
left me alone on the porch of that restaurant.

But that was so many, many years ago.
How could you leave me here all alone again,
you bastard!

Copyright 2008 – Softwood: Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald