Ann E. Michael




Namaste: Center Valley, PA


You drive to work every day, you’ve noticed everything familiar
so many times that you’ve stopped noticing anything, that’s how
it usually goes. Some days are sunnier than others, maybe dewy
early on, maybe a bit of glare on the road. You pass the elderly
guy who rides his bike each day at this hour, or maybe the thin
bearded man who jogs the side roads as schoolbuses begin their
routes, the black-haired woman who waits with her first-grader
at one of the corners. The radio’s on, you hear something you’ve
never encountered before, a trio sonata by Zelenka, and perhaps
that’s why on this particular morning there’s a monk walking
along the shoulder, a monk in maroon tunic and trousers, his
head shaved, his mouth round as he chants the world resonant—
though you can’t hear him above the car engine and the music,
you observe his half-closed eyes, his adam’s apple in motion,
the regularity of his step. What is he doing here, in a provincial
town in Pennsylvania at 7 a.m. on a weekday morning, alone?
You go past at 35 miles an hour, blinking at his retreating figure
in your rear-view mirror, half-certain you cannot believe your
eyes, wondering if your coffee was decaffeinated after all and
where he is going and is he Tibetan? And then you decide,
I think he was here for me, and although there’s no logic
in that answer, it’s enough. You reach the traffic light at the
highway, and the light’s green and you’ve never seen anything
so brilliant; the maple leaves wave at you and a cloud overhead
unfolds like a heron. That’s when you say to the world, “Good
morning,” and all of it responds to you at once.



Wet Summers here’s this young woman practically in tears—it’s almost one o’clock
and raining harder than ever, thunder so close it’s practically grabbing us by the
shoulders and the lights dim inside each time the sky goes millisecond-bright.
It doesn’t feel like midday. Every stall is full and the horses aren’t happy.
We can hear the skittish ones hollering, pawing, kicking at the doors. It’s a squall,
I tell Sara; but she’s frustrated, fuming, has her tack cleaned and her dress breeches
on for a three o’clock show she’s convinced won’t happen now that all hell’s let
loose in the form of torrents and flash floods, and there’s a stream coursing from
the south door into the first bay of the stable—it looks like the River Jordan.
The roof leaks at a spot directly above her shampooed and just-groomed mare
and I’ve run out of cheery platitudes and patience; I just walk myself to the barn’s
far end, feel the rain splash up my legs from the puddle at the threshold, feel the wet
drips on my neck and face through the rotting shingles. The wind’s stopped. It’s a
straight-falling deluge and hot, a no-relief rain with big drops that bubble in
the temporary pools of runoff by the wash stalls. The afternoon is green and grey,
the puddles a stirred-up brown, and I remember my former boss—thirty years ago—
standing in the type shop doorway on a day like this one. The look on his face
was worse than Sara’s, not frustration or mutiny but numb desolate recall, slack
and empty. “Man,” he said, “It used to rain like this in ’Nam.”



435569-1160691-thumbnail.jpgIn addition to essays, Ann E. Michael writes poetry, libretti, and reviews, (which have appeared online, in print, and on Public Radio). She has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts poetry fellowship recipient and currently is Writing Coordinator at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. Her previous work has appeared in Natural Bridge, Minimus, Poem, Painted Bride Quarterly, Grasslands Review, Coe Review, Ninth Letter, The Writer's Chronicle and others—as well as in anthologies and online. Her most recent chapbook is The Minor Fauna, Finishing Line Press 2006. Website