One of the last things my brother and his wife did before returning to Armenia a couple of weeks ago was to plant some parsley and purple basil seeds in an old wooden grape-picking box, and then place the box at a slightly elevated angle near a south-facing window inside my mother�s house. Since then, I�ve kept the seeds and soil moist with a spray bottle. The warmth from the window is working. In their half of the box, the parsley seeds are already coming up. None of the basil is showing yet in the other half, but a few weeds have sprouted, so I know it can�t be far behind.

Now, I�m just crazy enough that when I look at the seedlings, I can also imagine that this boxful of earth is a field, and that I am alone in this field, and that the seedlings are nourished by the bones of my ancestors:

The old man told me
he himself had died
a long, long time ago.

He pointed to a distant plain,
a tide of earth that once
bled mountains of their loam.

The harvest there is rich,
he said, it never ends,
the fingers, limbs, and skulls.

In the sun beside his hut,
an ancient cart trembled
beneath a village of bones,

A genocide of sightless eyes
that sang the wind
proud and low and long,

An insane congregation
borne by wooden wheels,
a cemetery without a home.

From out across the plain,
the old man touched
my fleshless, bleached-white arm.

From out across the plain,
I too became
a keeper of the bones.

When my brother and his wife showed me what they had done, we all laughed at having one of our fifty-year-old picking boxes in the house, and at the tiny size of this garden-to-be. But I knew even then that after the prolonged challenge we had faced in taking care of my mother, who is now doing well at a small care facility nearby, what they were really doing was giving me the gift of an early spring.

Note: The poem �Keeper of the Bones� is part of Songs and Letters. It was first published October 8, 2005.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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