01 December 2007

Featured Poet: Michael Anania

Michael Anania's most recent books are IN NATURAL LIGHT and HEAT LINES,both from Moyer-Bell. He is Professor Emeritus at UIC and a member of
the Faculty in Writing at Northwestern. He lives in Austin, Texas and
on Lake Michigan.

Acting Up

“I have been having great doubts about the
current emphasis on Space.”

Fumiki Takamatsu (1973)


the point is
no space, just
mere location

the line, ex-
tension without
breadth; neither

exists, of course,
as you and I
exist, or I

exist proposing
you, a mere
location, the point,

you pass without
incident, locus

of all those

as in or for
example, wavelet,
bouy, drift-

net or crystal
lattice, its
coarse, courses

by landfall,
soundings in
feet and fathoms

sudden as ever,
the seaway

so your foot
strikes pebbles
or crunches white

sand, the salt marsh,
itself an ordinary
occasion, sea flowers

treeline, granite
another horizon

tilted in its own slow
time; “take it back,”
she says, “take

it all back,” as
though the speech
balloon could be

sucked back into
your mouth like
bubble gum, thought’s

fair weather cumulus
cloud vanishing with-
out consequence, so

much happens; this this
is one day, this the next,
moment to moment,

the neurons flashing
like neon, words or mere
breath, sigh and sigh

again, just for effect
(there is no audience),
Bravo! Brava! instances

of operatic virtuosity
amid such predictable,
occasions, sickness,

betrayal and death
rumors chorusing
around us once again;


location, locus of
all points, though
when you spin a thread

around your finger,
the weight at the end
speeds and spirals

inward; self, then,
the point, pointing
outward and centering,

pliƩ, as though what-
ever moved toward
you curved inward,

however slightly, as
your attention
moves toward it, space

in all its contingencies
bending its own shape
to your slightest touch.

Spruce Canyon Studies


in or around
this afternoon’s
quiet, Block or Bartok

proposes a sudden
urgency, as though
things were more likely

or more fully lit now,
their edges sharpened
in the trembling air


the image of self
is coinage, merely,
an arbitrary marker

whose value changes,
though its denomination
remains the same, so seems

permanent and reliable:
can you stay a while or leave
some token warming in my hand


it is terribly brief, isn’t it,
the duration of sound in air,
and yet there is always sound,

the steady hum of things,
wind, wave, traffic, the sixty
cycle murmur of light bulbs

and transforms, armatures
spinning their own tunes,
coils and magnets vibrating


these words are occasions,
disturbances in air, cats’ paws
rippling across rippled water; still

it’s the tune that proposes
the sentence, its melody,
implicit, though incomplete,

always; you sing along,
word by word, within another’s song
drawn by the satisfying arc of melody


it was Bartok, I think,
“ measures drawn past endurance,”
Leinsdorf, his hands reaching out

beyond their reach toward flight;
the bird feeder in the live oak swaying
with the push of departing birds,

leaves as sharp as laurels, branches
scaled with green moss, light, as well,
and shadow and cloud-rush and sky

This and That

In January, a slight rain in the air, more mist than rain, really, though
enough to accumulate, in time, into droplets that run down the windshield,
the wind out of the northwest, steady and chilling; elsewhere and at another
time in his life, this would have been snow, spinning on, rather than falling
through, the air;
the announcer on the radio, which had been playing nothing worth mentioning or
even noting, announces Julie London’s “Hot Toddy”; or does he announce it or
merely say, “Julie London’ and play the song, the coolly scatted version—
one one-two-three, one one one-two-three, one two three, though she says
do do-do-do, do do do-do-do do do do, except midway through the song
when she, quite poignantly, changes to oo oo-oo-oo, oo oo oo-oo-oo, ow
ow ow;
those among you concerned with narrative, as so many seem to be these days,
will notice that the shift from do do’s to oo’s and ow’s is manifestly
narrative, as all changes, even in music, inevitably tend to be, and
referential— oo and ow as parts of pleasure and pain or pleasure edging toward
pain or pain superseding pleasure, as a droplet exceeds mist, though it proceeds
from it, offering a sense of direction to what had otherwise seemed a mere
condition of the air;
questions of attraction, he supposed, were generated out the peculiar puzzle
of desire; how is it one thing, out of so many, takes on such importance, as
though life without it would seem less than life, or perhaps, in the moment,
at least, less complete;
it would be simpler, he thought, to suppose that desire, itself, is a condition,
rather, that is, than an occurrence, since it manifests itself so broadly and at
such diverse times; if it is mere absence, and absence is the continuous
companion of presence, then to perceive presence would be to perceive absence
and, therefore, desire, as something more significant than mere appetite, or
perhaps not;
whatever is missing, as a general fact of presence and absence, would not account
for desire’s specificity, a desire not for anything or any one member of a
category of things but for one thing, one person, receptive, in a similar
state of unaccountable need;
does it matter, he wonders, that Julie London played a nurse in a 1970s television
program about paramedics, called “Emergency,” that she took down vital signs
over a short wave radio and said things like saline, D5W, and lydocaine, that
she wore white, as nurses still did in the days before pastel, flowered scrubs,
that she seemed, even there, in costume, larger than life, that her husband,
Bobby Troup played a doctor on the show, which was produced by her ex-husband,
Jack Webb;
it is easy to image her on the set, then, microphone in hand, haloed with desire,
Webb’s pushed, we suppose, into the past, Troup’s more recent if not as
persistent, Webb reaching across time to dress Julie in stiffened white cotton
and polyester, saying pulse and blood pressure, or oo oo and ow ow in the
thick, low, desire-laden voice she was famous for.

© Copyright 2007 Michael Anania