by William Michaelian
Am I truly limited by my senses, or are they, too, imagined? Can I prove my own existence? Is such proof desirable, or even necessary? What of my childhood, and everything else I am in the habit of believing I remember? Is memory a thing of the present? Is it a story told, and then countless times retold, changing and continuing of its own volition and accord? Drawing and writing; waking and dreaming; fiction and reality; life and death — I simply feel no need to know where, or if, one ends and the other begins. Does that make me strange? And yet what is strangeness, but the very delight of a beautiful, unaccountable world, ever the more vivid once we have learned to let it go?
By firmly gripping a pencil in grade school and beyond, I developed a callous on the middle finger of my right hand. It’s still there, to the left and just below the nail, despite the fact that I’ve been typing almost exclusively for decades.
When I was small, my father found a clump of white asparagus growing in the vineyard. He dug it out and planted it by our house well. It fed us faithfully each spring.
I remember my father
walking on the hard dirt avenue
at the end of the vineyard
rows behind our
the cuffs turned up
on his jeans, the dust and sticks
and weeds, his impatient
stride, having to run
to stay beside
that hot July when I was four
and he was thirty-seven,
but I don’t recall our destination,
or what he did when we
arrived, what I said,
or his reply.
Once, on a hot summer evening, I aimed a BB gun at our old wooden basketball goal and fired. The shot bounced back and hit me in the forehead. I fished it out of the dust and put it in my pocket. I don’t remember what I did after that.
When I was about ten, I took nine snails from the irrigation ditch that ran alongside the east end of our farm and put them in the aquarium on top of my chest of drawers. A few weeks later, the aquarium was teeming with snails.
My first car was a bicycle. My first bicycle was a scooter. My first scooter was a tricycle. My first bus ride was in a dusty red wagon.
One night, my mother’s Aunt Mildred took out her teeth and showed them to me.
In the kitchen during a family get-together, with my mother looking on, I ate a piece of uncooked marinated lamb intended for shish kebab. It tasted good and I didn’t feel ill at all, but I never did it again.
We grew all of our tomatoes back then, and bought all of our onions and parsley.
Same as now, there were stars in those days that had no need of names.
If I were a lizard on a woodpile, I would still be able to write, but I would do it differently.
If I were a pumpkin on a vine, I would want to face east so I could watch the sun rise.
If I were a faithful old hound, my name would be Bill.
Late one night, driving home with some friends from the mountains, I pulled off the road, stopped the car, and told everyone to get out and look at the stars. They did, in amazed silence. I wonder if they remember that now.
I still feel thrilled when I find a marble.
Back in his heyday, Willie Mays lived near my cousin’s house in San Francisco. We rang his doorbell. No one answered.
My father used to chase them when he was a kid, but I myself have never seen a roadrunner.
The first thing I smoked was a nickel cigar.
To this day, I feel funny referring to myself as a man. A man was always someone older, someone responsible. My father and grandfather were men. I am still a boy.
I cannot blow my nose using my right hand. It has to be the left.
I always tie my left shoe first.
I kick with my left foot.
The first poem I remember reading is “O Captain! My Captain!”
When I first started piano lessons, I used to sing with every note. The teacher told my mother I had perfect pitch.
There are some things I will never write about. That, too, is how you will know me.
William Michaelian is an American writer, artist, and poet. His most recent book is the Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition of his first novel, A Listening Thing. He lives in Salem, Oregon.