My Old Black Sport Coat

Although references to the old black wool sport coat I bought for $12.99 at Goodwill seven years ago to wear to a wedding are scattered here and there around the site, I haven’t written a poem about it until now. I still wear the coat for months at a stretch during the colder part of the year. In fact, I do more than wear it. I rely on it. I have only one other sport coat — a pointlessly speckled light-gray affair that I wore only a few times several years ago. A bit on the flimsy side, that one cost $7.99, and it never did fit that well. I don’t remember just why I bought it. Restless, probably. The black one fits perfectly and is quite warm. It was made in Hungary. I love it. It’s a faithful friend.

My Old Black Sport Coat

Someday I think I’d like to wear it in Ireland,
And maybe even be buried in it there.
I could fall asleep while leaning on its sturdy
Unfaded elbows, surrounded by strangers in a pub,
And then simply not wake up — as if I’d lost
My train of thought, or managed to forget
The most important thing. Perdóneme,
What did you say again? Ah. He’s dead.
But what a fine sport coat.

That same train is calling in the wilderness.
Now it’s moving slowly past the docks.
Men look up: the beast sniffs along the track,
But knows not where to stop.

Six years ago, when I helped lay my dear Basque
Mother-in-law to rest, I was wearing this coat.
Her grave is beside her husband’s
In a cemetery adjacent to an onion field.
Earlier, in the church,
The man who rented her vineyard
Looked at me as if I were strange.
Jealous of the coat, I thought,
Or puzzled by my hair and beard.
And now, he is dead.

His tractor is calling in the wilderness.
Now it’s moving slowly past the docks.
Men look up: the beast sniffs along the furrow,
But knows not where to stop.

I taught three sons how to drive
While wearing this old black coat:
Country roads, parking lots, residential streets.
I taught them how to use their mirrors
And to back up along a curb.
Hills were easier, they learned,
In first or second gear.

Frequently, along the way, I remembered
When my father had taught me.

After our youngest son got his license,
I was wearing this coat when the two of us
Stopped at a tobacco shop after buying his insurance.
I bought a cigar and smoked it in this coat,
To celebrate what he’d done, but also in memory
Of my old man,

Who somehow became lost in the wilderness.
Now he’s walking slowly past the docks.
Men look up: maybe they know him.
But if they did, wouldn’t they call out?

When I held my grandson for the first time,
I was wearing this coat. Outside, rain.
Along a scented, night-black street,
I walked away from the hospital in this coat,
Pleased and wondering what it meant.

You never know who you’ll meet in the wilderness.

November 26, 2007

Note: Poems, Slightly Used, a growing collection of work first published in my blog, Recently Banned Literature, can be found here.

Available from Cosmopsis Books of San Francisco

Winter Poems
by William Michaelian

Winter Poems (click to view cover)

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
US $11.95; $8.95 at Cosmopsis Books
52 pages. 6x9. Paper.
Includes one drawing.
San Francisco, June 2007
Signed, numbered & illustrated copies

Winter Poems displays the skills and abilities of Mr. Michaelian at their most elemental level, at the bone. Wandering amidst a barren world, a world scraped bare, he plucks the full moon like fruit from the winter sky, goes mad and befriends a pack of hungry wolves, burns his poems to keep warm. He is a flake of snow, a frozen old man, a spider spinning winter webs. Spring is only a vague notion of a waiting vineyard, crocuses, and ten-thousand babies. The author is alone, musing, reflecting, at times participating. But not quite alone, for he brings the lucky reader along. I’ve been there, to this winter world, and I plan to go back.

                                                            — John Berbrich, Barbaric Yawp

Another Song I Know — Short Poems
by William Michaelian

Another Song I Know (click to view cover)

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
US $13.95; $10.95 at Cosmopsis Books
80 pages. 6x9. Paper.
Includes Author’s Note.
San Francisco, June 2007
Signed, numbered & illustrated copies

Another Song I Know is a delightful collection of brief, resilient poems. Reading them, one by one by one, is like taking a walk through our common everyday world and suddenly hearing what the poet hears: the leaves, a coffee cup, chairs — and yes, even people, singing their songs of wisdom, sweetness, and light.

                                                            — Tom Koontz, Barnwood poetry magazine

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

Main Page
Author’s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Let’s Eat
Favorite Books & Authors
Useless Information
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

Poetry, Notes & Marginalia:
Recently Banned Literature

Collected Poems by William Michaelian
A Larger Life
Monastery of Psalms
Friends (includes French translation)
Summer of Dreams
Is It His Coat?
The Boy Who Wrote Letters
Forty Days, Forty Nights
Papa’s Song (clam chowder blues)
The Pilgrim’s Way
A Christmas Wish
The Teacher
The Literary Awakening of America
The Healer
The Enigmatic Child
What Happened to God
Reading Tristram Shandy
A Prefix of Obscure Meaning
He Knows
My Only Friend
The World I Know
We Do Not Need a Poem
Three Short Poems
The More We Are Looking For
I Hear the Earth
What Will I Give You?
Great Minds Think Alike
The Age of Us All
I Met My Spirit
Claim Denied
Summer Days
Greek Peppers
Another Hard Day
James Joyce Singing
How Many Stones?
At the Armenian Home
The Peace Talks
The Eggs of March
Armenian Music
If Poems Were Days
Once Again I Lied
One Last Thing
Everywhere I Go
Up Here On the Hill
Winter View
What December Said to January
Winter Poems
Spring Haiku
How to Write a Poem, In Three Lessons
The Walls Have Ears
Why I Don’t Buy Grapes
To French Vanilla and All the Other Flavors
It Was
Early Morning Haiku
Someone’s Mother
Fall Questions
The Clerk and the Windmill
Roadside Distress, Part 2
Magical Realism (First Prize)
Café Poetry Night: Two Poems
Short Poem for Spring
Short Poem for Summer
I Find Him Eating Butterflies
For the Sister I Never Had
An Absurdist Play
The Second Act

Of Poets and Other Things

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