A Hanging Screen

By Michael Anania b. 1939 Michael Anania
“In warm sunlight jade   
engenders smoke”; poetry,   
like indigo mountain,
keeps its distance;

the light plays words   
and figures, stone’s   
edge edged with air,   
green haze growing.

Amused by butterflies,   
Chuang Tsu dreaming,   
the emperor’s heart in
spring, thoroughly transformed.

Still, in pieces, the words   
rest so much apart.   
Risking my life I lean   
on dangerous railings.

When the dream wakes   
to its own particulars,   
the strands scattered,   
loose hair on muslin,

broken characters
the reeds make, unmake—
vague    no reason
bright    again    dark—

the sidewalk’s fracturing,   
damp willow twig
forked there as well
locust seedpods:

Autumn, then, and
gourd music, the wind—
indistinct    no-stop
break    again    join.

Drifting between narrow   
bluffs, sharp bends
enclose us, deep
rain-cuts all around—

mountain pass, slant   
sunlight and snow line,   
the dream piazza
gilded into a high valley;

“haze, mist,” Kuo Hsi   
interrupted, sluice-
way wedged into
a mountain like a keel;

what was said by fire-
light, the bandit in
the yellow sombrero   
laughing at the window.

Chill surprise of
Chinese apples, glitter   
of the Pacific between   
buildings—caught in

passing, an empty   
rowboat or Russian sealer   
riding at anchor, Magellan   
full sail in dusty curtains,

casements groan like   
taut rigging, bright   
shore, the heat lines   
full of spice, breadfruit

stretching to our hands;   
a new nourishment, this   
mission, or shaded rest—
Pitcairn, a century or more.

I wanted to make this poem   
of silk, stretched tight
and polished, an ink wash   
drifting ambiguous mountains,

words gathered like momentary   
details, instances of wind
and water among loose foliage,   
painting au plein air; that is

alive and painting a surface   
of perpetual change, the eye’s   
return always at odds with   
memory, however certain;

the wind’s warp in the cloth,   
pressing the brushstroke back   
full of squalls, relaxing
the line out of reach.

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

Source: Poetry (June 1975).


This poem originally appeared in the June 1975 issue of Poetry magazine

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June 1975
 Michael  Anania


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 History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Landscapes & Pastorals, Poetry & Poets, Painting & Sculpture, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Weather

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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