Robert Hass

–Online Poems Essay, Research Paper


All the new thinking is about loss.

In this it resembles all the old thinking.

The idea, for example, that each particular erases

the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-

faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk

of that black birch is, by his presence,

some tragic falling off from a first world

of undivided light. Or the other notion that,

because there is in this world no one thing

to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,

a word is elegy to what it signifies.

We talked about it late last night and in the voice

of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone

almost querulous. After a while I understood that,

talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,

pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman

I made love to and I remembered how, holding

her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,

I felt a violent wonder at her presence

like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river

with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,

muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish

called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.

Longing, we say, because desire is full

of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.

But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,

the thing her father said that hurt her, what

she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous

as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.

Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,

saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

? 1987 Robert Hass

Online Source:


Summoned by conscious recollection, she

would be smiling, they might be in a kitchen talking,

before or after dinner. But they are in this other room,

The window has many small panes, and they are on a couch

embracing. He holds her as tightly

as he can, she buries herself in his body.

Morning, maybe it is evening, light

is flowing through the room. Outside,

the day is slowly succeeded by night,

succeeded by day. The process wobbles wildly

and accelerates: weeks, months, years. The light in the


does not change, so it is plain what is happening.

They are trying to become one creature,

and something will not have it. They are tender

with each other, afraid

their brief, sharp cries will reconcile them to the moment

when they fall away again. So they rub against each other,

their mouths dry, then wet, then dry.

They feel themselves at the center of a powerful

and baffled will. They feel

they are an almost animal

washed up on the shore of a world–

or huddled up against the gate of a garden–

to which they can’t admit they can never be admitted.

? Robert Hass, from Human Wishes

Online Source:


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