The Clock on the Wall

        To My Mother on Her Birthday
When the fireworks subside
and the toy soldiers
are safe inside
their tired little beds,
the stars will shine
in your honor.

Your grandmother�s old clock is still ticking on the wall. She, too, was born on this day, back in 1859. Dear Amanda, your father�s mother, died in Kingsburg, California, eleven years before I was born. She had a window seat, you said. Her house was near a pasture, in view of the Concordia Lutheran Church. You and your father used to drive from Dinuba to Kingsburg on Sundays to visit her. I can imagine the two of you on Avenue 400, crossing the bridge over the Kings River, riding past the dusty vineyards your father loved. I can feel the vibrations of the road, and see the dry weeds lined along the edge. I can see the little country grade school, and the place where you used to live, and the Depression-tattered houses.

The pendulum is swinging. Did your grandparents bring the clock with them when they left Woodhull, Illinois, and came West in 1888? Or did they buy it in Kingsburg later on? We still don�t know. But we could find out. We could do some research, or find a clock expert to tell us when the thing was made. All we know for sure is that it was on Amanda�s wall when you were a kid, and that it eventually found its way into your Aunt Ada�s house, and that Aunt Ada knew how much it meant to you and passed it on before she died. Aunt Ada � your father�s little sister, a late arrival to the family, a wide-eyed little girl surrounded by brothers who were grown men, and an adult sister. I�m thinking of the family portrait in the big oval frame, of course, on the wall opposite the clock. Beautiful.

If we haven�t taken the trouble to find out about the clock by now, we probably never will. Having it and knowing who it belonged to seems to be enough. Someday, though, your grandchildren will probably become curious and solve the mystery, and in the process discover many more. They will wonder, as I do, what it was like to follow the rails through the wilderness West, and to leave behind the tiny graves of siblings claimed by death within a year. They will open rugged trunks in their imagination to see what essential parts of Woodhull were carried to Kingsburg � your grandfather�s music, dishes, the family bible, clothes. And they will wonder about the house they lived in, the street it was on, the neighbors, and the soft sounds of an Illinois morning. They will listen to conversation around the table. Please tell me once again: Why are we going to California?

July 4, 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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