Poem of the Day: Robert Hass "Meditations at Lagunitas"

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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".

Enjoy!

Robert Hass - "Meditations at Lagunitas"
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.

 

 

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One Response to “ Poem of the Day: Robert Hass "Meditations at Lagunitas" ”

  1. One of my very favorite poems, thanks for posting!

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