Memorial Day

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It is easily forgotten year to

year, exactly where the plot is

though the place is entirely familiar—

the willow tree by the 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 read 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 water faucet

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 out, 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 and 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.

 

Selected Poems (Asphodel Press, 1994)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Leo Reynolds

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About Author

Michael Anania is a poet, essayist and fiction writer. His published work includes numerous collections of poetry, among them Selected Poems (l994), In Natural Light (1999) and Heat Lines (2006). His poetry is widely anthologized and has been translated into Italian, German, French, Spanish and Czech.  He has also published a novel, The Red Menace, and a collection of essays, In Plain Sight. Anania was poetry editor of Audit, a quarterly, founder and co-editor of Audit/Poetry, where he edited special issues of the poetry of Frank O辿ara and Robert Duncan. He was poetry and literary editor of The Swallow Press, poetry editor of Partisan Review and a contributing editor to Tri-Quarterly. Anania taught at SUNY at Buffalo, Northwestern and  the University of Chicago and is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He lives in Austin, Texas and on Lake Michigan.

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