To Ali Baba and the Shepherd on the Hill

I remember an old olive grove
north of the tiny town
of Sultana, California,
where Road 104
turns right and becomes
drowsy Floral Avenue
at the hill.
I wonder if the trees
are still there.
A beautiful grove it was,
muscular, sacred,
immaculately groomed,
a restful scene Jesus
could admire from
a rugged stone
on the grassy hill,
while the snakes coiled
and the buzzards circled
slowly overhead,
waiting for God
to sacrifice his son.

There were tomatoes
before the turn,
and oranges across the road.
Greek farmers on one side,
Armenian on the other.
Ali Baba, the champion wrestler,
held court in his house
hidden from the road,
rubbed the twisted backs
of tired, hurting men,
boiled weeds and wild herbs
to rid them of disease,
told stories to make them laugh
and ease their troubled minds.

His real name? Harry Ekizian.
An Old Country legend
who did two thousand
push-ups a day
and made cameo appearances
in his seventies wearing
swimming trunks
and a straw hat at the bank
a few miles west in Dinuba,
the town where I grew up,
thinking such things
were normal.

Now I wish they were.
Ali Baba, don�t wake up.
If you do, stay home,
and I will bring your supper.
We�ll sit in the dusk
and watch the pheasants scatter,
one shot of moonshine
at a time.
We�ll remember the old names
come in anger,
then walk out to the olives
where they lay roaring
in unmarked graves.
Who knows?
It might even bring
a smile to the face
of the shepherd on the hill.
Something tells me
he is up there still,
crying for the strange, sad world
that is man.

May 23, 2005

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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

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