Another Kind of Poem

One of my earliest memories is of being with my mother while she trained a small one-year-old vineyard onto six-foot, hand-split redwood stakes. I wasn�t quite three years old. The soil was light on that part of the farm, almost sandy. There had been a rain. Afterward, as the ground dried in the sun, a thin crust formed on the surface. The crust was just stiff enough that wherever I stepped, a perfect footprint was left behind, and the crust around it undisturbed. I called the ground �step-in ground,� and I can remember being delighted by the sound my sturdy little shoes made as the crust was broken by my weight.

While my mother worked, I would watch her intently for a minute or two, then go off to make more footprints. The vines were seven feet apart. For each seven feet my mother walked, I probably covered fifty. My footprints were everywhere, and formed a complete and irrefutable record of my travels. There was something to investigate in every direction: partially decayed brush and leaves, feathers, clods, shiny grains of soil, animal tracks. There was also the satisfying fragrance released by the extra growth my mother had trimmed from the vines as it dried on the ground, and of the yellowish twine she was using to tie up the succulent trunks.

Later, after the vineyard grew up and thrived and became the rugged annual producer of a dozen or more tons of sweet red wine grapes per acre, and after I had become one of its faithful custodians, there was no season, no year, during which I did not remember my first steps there. And I have many similar memories involving my brothers, our father, and his father, from the countless hours we spent together in the fields. I remember running home in a spring thunderstorm with one brother, each of us carrying a hoe, and arriving at the house soaked to the skin. I remember listening to the sparrows in the neighbor�s Santa Rosa plum trees. I remember the sound of pruning shears cutting through brush in the thick valley fog, and bits of conversation coming from hundreds of feet away.

This is how a place creeps into your bones, and how it whispers in the silent regions of the mind, drifting past landmarks of experience and thought until it reaches the essence of your accidental, remarkable reality to utter the single indestructible word, home.

I can only imagine what life would have been like otherwise, had my parents moved restlessly from one place to the next. Maybe I would have discovered another kind of harmony in that life, another kind of poem. I know others have. Over the years, I myself have found poems thriving in the most unlikely, inhospitable places. I think it has to do with another strange and powerful word, hope.

August 27, 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

Signed copies available

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