Remembrance Rock

When the famous poet Carl Sandburg died on this day back in 1967, I was pitching a tennis ball against the chimney of our house, keeping track of balls and strikes in an important nine-inning game between me and myself. With a piece of chalk, I had drawn a life-sized batter on the bricks. He stood ready with his bat, an expressionless opponent wearing a white cap. When I hit him, he refused to take his base. When I threw a perfect strike, he wouldn�t swing. Like me, he was arrogant, stubborn, and not very bright. Of course, he wasn�t real. I must remind myself of that. He wasn�t real, and I was, and so was Carl Sandburg, who died in the sacred act of cheering us on.

Carl Sandburg wrote one novel. At 1,067 pages, it weighs almost as much as its name, Remembrance Rock. I believe that was his intent. The book might have served as his tombstone, were it not for the rock-monument by that name placed at his first home in Galesburg, Illinois, beneath which his ashes lie. The monument bears these words: �For it could be a place to come and remember. . . .�

I haven�t read his novel. I bought a used copy of it over a year ago. It is a rugged black tome that was discarded by the local library, well worn and stained here and there, but still sturdy and intact. The pages have the same musty-intoxicating smell the books had years ago in our old hometown public library. That isn�t why I bought it, but it would have been reason enough.

Though I haven�t read the book, I have read elsewhere that one of the characters in Remembrance Rock gathers handfuls of soil from many different historical sites in the United States, and then buries the soil under a large rock. There are characters named Mim, Mr. Ludgate, and Dora � I am turning pages at random � Joel, �Cousin Omri,� Mibs, and Amos Hines. And here is a place called the Maple Leaf bar. It�s all wonderful. It doesn�t mean the book is great, but these are good signs. And let us not forget that an enormous amount of work and living goes into writing a thousand-page story. Let us not forget that a writer undergoes profound changes while engaged in so monumental a task � yes, there is that word monument again � changes born of tragedy, joy, and revelation. Finally, let us not forget that a writer doesn�t compose a work of that length unless he feels driven, bitten, and sick with the understanding of his mission � which is why, if he fails, if the book is confusing, or ponderous, or burdened by superfluous passages, his failure may still be termed a success.

If this is not so, then what of our own lives? What of our own mistakes? Are we to be disqualified for our shortcomings, for our periods of disillusionment and despair? Or are we to be remembered for our dedicated effort, our smile, and the good things we have done?

July 22, 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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