Sunday, November 8, 2009

Poem of the Week: "Meditation at Lagunitas," by Robert Hass

For the last month or so, I've been meaning to use this poem as my Poem of the Week. Robert Hass's "Meditation at Lagunitas" is definitely in my list of top five favorite poems. It starts out really highbrow and a little hard to understand, but those last eight lines are killer. Of all the poems I have ever read (including Larkin's "Talking in Bed," which I included a few weeks ago along with a discussion about the amazingness of its ending), the final line of this poem is hands-down my favorite final line of poetry EVER. And this is definitely a poem to read aloud, so that last line has even more beauty and impact. In fact, the first time I ever heard this poem, a professor was reading it to our class. And the way he read it runs through my mind every time I see it.

Meditation at Lagunitas, by Robert Hass

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 minnows, 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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