For today's edition of Poem of the Day, I bring you Robert Hass. Hass is the closest thing we have to a 'household name poet' in the U.S. (excluding rappers and musicians of course). He was poet laureate from 1995-1997, won the Pulitzer Prize, and regularly publishes in mainstream newspapers.
This one's from 1979, and says everything about love, loss and the persistence of memory. Hass plays with language in order to hold it more accountable, in order to say that, no matter how hard we try, the use of words reduces the magical to something more mundane, and "everything dissolves".
All the new thinking is about loss.In this it resembles all the old thinking.The idea, for example, that each particular erasesthe luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunkof that black birch is, by his presence,some tragic falling off from a first worldof undivided light. Or the other notion that,because there is in this world no one thingto which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,a word is elegy to what it signifies.We talked about it late last night and in the voiceof my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tonealmost querulous. After a while I understood that,talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a womanI made love to and I remembered how, holdingher small shoulders in my hands sometimes,I felt a violent wonder at her presencelike a thirst for salt, for my childhood riverwith its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fishcalled pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.Longing, we say, because desire is fullof 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, whatshe dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinousas words, days that are the good flesh continuing.Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.