Collection at Soul Food

My Lemon Tree by William Michaelian
A Collection of Poems by W. Michaelian
A Map of My Heart by W. Michaelian

Poetry by William Michaelian


This afternoon,
while riding home
from work
on bus number nine,
I began to see things
as they really are.
The ruts in the road
are not ruts,
but the protruding veins
of a bloated,
underground carcass.
The two-headed
blind woman
sitting next to me
as did the poodle
who said he'd known
for years and only
kept his mouth shut.
Later, at my stop,
I met an unborn child
thawing her dreams
over an imaginary fire
on the sidewalk.
She looked up, smiled,
gave me her blessing.

A Larger Life

In my quest to live a larger life,
I have noticed smaller things,
including my own existence,
formerly thought of as profound,
but which now pales before
the taste and crunch of an apple,
or the invisible wake carved
in a misty November sky
by a formation of geese
passing overhead -

until I disappear altogether,
only to resurface on another plane,
where my struggles are unnecessary,
and I am no longer an intruder,
but a participant -

a human apple set upon by larger teeth,
a handful of crumbled earth
trod upon by a multitude of feet,
an enlightened gasp,
a flame burning clear and bright -

no longer a mistake,
or a question mark with a burden
of knowledge to bear,
but an intoxicating expression of delight -

like words on a page
no longer strangled by their meaning,
or a hostage of time free
to run naked in the night wind,
glorified by all that is unnecessary,
rebelling at nothing, nameless, insane -

where the larger life I sought
becomes a child knocking on my door,
breathless, urgent, asking me to play -

when the failed creed of purpose
withers and dies away -

and all that I am is forgotten and embraced.

"A Larger Life" first appeared in The Synergyst.

Summer of Dreams

The neighbors hate me
because I plowed up our lawn
with an old mule -
an out-of-work friend of mine
dropped in to visit from a former life,
too tired and set in his ways
to retrain for a career in high-tech.

The lawn went under
in the warm, sacred afternoon.
We cut our paces in an easy rhythm,
to a quiet beat of tranquility
and forgetfulness,
while the atmosphere rumbled
with aromatic earth-song,
calling the birds,
calling the insects,
making the dogs bark -
the poor hobbled creatures
tied to pegs with dung-encrusted rope,
wide-eyed and desperate
for companionship.

We sank rejoicing to our knees
in the mellow-brown soil,
to the sound of slamming doors
and neighbors clearing their throats.
Hands on hips, not one of them
could fathom our joy,
confident there was a law against
plowing up one's front lawn
and that a word with City Hall
would net them satisfaction.

I was visited once by a man
in a pickup with a logo on its side.
We chatted amiably.
Later that week I planted corn.
Now the tall stalks rustle in the breeze,
the mule sleeps in the shade,
and clouds of hostility brood
over driveways, garbage cans, fences.

"Summer of Dreams" first appeared in Barbaric Yawp.


On the sidewalk
the old woman sits
at a small table
talking to her dog.
She sips coffee,
offers him crumbs
from her paper plate.
Croissant, she says,
and the dog answers
with a sneezy little bark
that sounds exactly
like the word flaky.
They smile at each other,
then pause for a moment
to scratch at their fleas.
The morning sun rises
above the brick building
across the street.
It is a good sun,
full of understanding
and ancient wisdom.

"Friends" first appeared in The Synergyst.

The Books by My Bed

The books by my bed
are full of words
I do not comprehend,
yet how I love them,
like people I know
whose hard shells
hide a thousand shades
of complexity,
that once revealed
become rivers of light
and dreams that penetrate
the farthest depths of space.

The books by my bed
are full of people
I do not understand,
yet how I love them,
like words I know
whose hard shells
hide a thousand shades
of complexity,
that once revealed
become rivers of light
and dreams that penetrate
the farthest depths of space.

Hymn to the Sun

After the war,
fathers are silent in their vineyard rows,
and mothers are bound by grief.

After the war,
sisters tend the rolling hills
where brothers forever sleep.

And the young brides who wait
go mad suckling their unborn children.

After the war,
the earth sings a hymn to the sun,
but nothing grows, hidden from the light.

What will we say, after the war?
What strange stories will we tell?
When the children ask us why we killed,
will we send them on to hell?

The earth sings a hymn to the sun.
Like fallen angels, we walk among the graves.
Here lies the artist, the builder, the dreamer,
she would be a doctor, he a teacher,
yet none of them were saved.

After the war, will we hear the earth?
When the blood has turned to crusty loam,
will we look up in wonder at the sun?

After the war,
will we sing a hymn to living,
or will we choose to sleep?

Some say we are descendants of those who lived on Mars.
Some say benevolent beings from other worlds are here to guide us.
Some say God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.
Some say He is old and tired, and has been resting ever since.

I say Yes. They are all part of the same golden hymn.
To deny is an imagined privilege, religiously abused,
an inherited excuse to remain pathetic and small.

Yes is an open door. No is a death knell in the dark.