Memorial Day

By Michael Anania b. 1939 Michael Anania
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar—
a willow tree by a curving roadway   
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;

damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,   
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored   
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;

such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down   
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair   
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.

We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy   
regarding the precise enactments of their own   
gesturing. And among the women there will be   
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.

The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances—sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed   
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,   
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.

It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,   
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way   
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.

Michael Anania, “Memorial Day” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Michael Anania. Used by permission of Asphodel Press/Acorn Alliance.

Source: Selected Poems (1994)

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Poet Michael Anania b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Spring, Living, Nature, Growing Old, Relationships, Death, Family & Ancestors, History & Politics, Summer, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Heroes & Patriotism, Sorrow & Grieving, Trees & Flowers

Holidays Memorial Day

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Michael  Anania

Biography

In the afterword to his first book, the 1969 New Poetry Anthology, Michael Anania wrote, "There is little evidence that modernism is dead or even dying. The tradition of Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens and their contemporaries is very much alive." Anania's importance as a poet lies in how he preserves and develops this modernist tradition in American poetry. A deep commitment to modernism and the tradition of experimental, often . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Spring, Living, Nature, Growing Old, Relationships, Death, Family & Ancestors, History & Politics, Summer, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Heroes & Patriotism, Sorrow & Grieving, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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