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All This While.

And Two More Poems


All This While

“in lilac shadows”
—Giuseppe Ungaretti (1916)

where among these losses—
hunched figures single file,
grey dawn or soiled evening—
do you find them, “water
droplets like gemstones,”
moments perfected from dread

I return, as always,
to light and shadow, strains
of familiar music, lyrics
filled with love and absence;
we are between wars, kneel
into our own despairs;

the wasp hovering here means
only to find a brief rest,
a lizard in silhouette nods
once, then moves away,
branches shagged with ball moss
catch the afternoon sun;

intensity is, as always ,
the space between singular
and plural, the lists—not
lists even, mere numbers
of the dead, the night bug tick
of infusion, the huff of intubation;

we wait, imagining each
breath might bring our own virus;
numbers, once again, how many
breaths remain before your
number’s up, “take that, buster,”
a final darkness without a dawn;

stare, then, at what is close,
what shines in the moment, its
movements slight and accidental;
“I wish I may,” heart sick,
“I wish I might,” nod once,
hover through sun and shade;

the lilac blooms in memory.
not in the dooryard, but
at the kitchen door, spring,
all those other springs, and loss
the sum that age contends with,
particulate and strange

Easter 2022

along this Texas highway, parked cars
families taking pictures of children
sitting or lying down in bluebonnets,
girls in white dresses, boys in their
Communion suits, bright faces, lifted
on a wave of white-centered flowers

near Lviv, cars are left at the roadside,
mothers and their children trudge toward
Poland, eyes fixed ahead, behind them
mortars open their steel and cordite petals;
tattered recessional, this April the stone
at the church door, smoke stained, unturned,

montandas, linen angels, singed and burnt;
there are no guardians in this world, no pause
for them, no rest along the way; this is death’s
resurrection, fields of rubble, sown with
cartridge casings and unexploded rounds,
bodies robed, hooded in black plastic;

we greet the Spring and all its figures
of hope—bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush,
fiddlehead ferns uncurling into the light—
then, daily, news photographs, footage of
charred buildings, garden plots of broken glass,
a girl’s body bent across a bloodied curbside

“The people know the present.”

(Cavafy, here, quoting Philostratus.)
Or do we? Yellow trumpet flowers
nod against my stone wall, live

oak shadows sway there, as well;
a jogger’s pony tail bobs by, voices,
words, perhaps, but at this distance,

mere noise; there is a breeze today,
tires hum in passing, the purple weight
of beauty berries tugs at their stems,

broad, pale leaves fidget into the light.
These things propose me, propose
my present, moment by moment,

but is that the present Philostratus
had in mind for me, momentary
and contingent? Probably not.

His present was a larger condition,
conditions even, in which my
present is an unlikely participant;

“people know” proposes a collection
of presents, other trees’ shadows,
other walls; that present is at best

an area of time, a bundling
of moments we presume that we share.
The breeze has freshened and the trees

are moving in concert now; the most
active of the beauty berries bobs along
like the bouncing ball above

the lyrics in a movie sing-along,
offering, at least, a nostalgia
for something like unison; melody

is, after all, a kind of shared purpose.
“I envy you,” she said, “your chance
of death,” an end to all these presents,

the song’s expected period, each of us
breathing freely once again, the darkness
and all that the bright screen shared.

It is what holds us, time’s chrysalis,
what we emerge from, stretching
into the light and its discreet moments.

MICHAEL ANANIA’s most recent books of poetry are Continuous Showings and Nightsongs and Clamors, both from Mad Hat Press. Also, from Mad Hat, From the Word to the Place, edited by Lea Graham, a collection of essays on Anania’s work. He lives in Austin, Texas, and on Lake Michigan. Previously in The Fortnightly Review: ‘Gli Ucelli’ and two more poems.

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