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Robert Hass

Pic. Shoey Sindel

Robert Hass

For Czesław Miłosz in Kraków

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The fog has hovered off the coast for weeks
And given us a march of brilliant days
You wouldn’t recognize – who have grumbled
So eloquently about gray days on Grizzly Peak –
Unless they put you in mind of puppet pageants
Your poems remember from Lithuanian market towns
Just after the First World War. Here’s more theater:
A mule-tail doe gave birth to a pair of fawns
A couple of weeks ago just outside your study
In the bed of oxalis by the redwood trees.
Having dropped by that evening, I saw,
Though at first I couldn’t tell what I was seeing,
A fawn, wet a shivering, curled almost
In a ball under the thicket of hazel and toyon.
I’ve read somewhere that does hide the young
As best they can and then go off to browse
And recruit themselves. They can’t graze the juices
In the leaves if they stay to protect the newborns.
It’s the glitch in engineering through which chance
And terror enter on the world. I looked closer
At the fawn. It was utterly still and trembling,
Eyes closed, possibly asleep. I leaned to smell it:
There was hardly a scent. She had licked all traces
Of the rank birth-smell away. Do you remember
This fragment from Anacreon? – the context,
Of course, was probably erotic: “... her gently,
Like an unweaned fawn left alone in a forest
By its antlered mother, frail, trembling with fright.”
It’s a verse – you will like this detail – found
In the papyrus that wrapped a female mummy
A museum in Cairo was examining in 1956.
I remember the time that a woman in Portland
Asked if you were a reader of Flannery O’Connor.
You winced regretfully, shook your head,
And said, “You know, I don’t agree with the novel.”
I think you haven’t agreed, in this same sense,
With life, never accepted the cruelty in the frame
Of things, brooded on your century, and God the Monster,
And the smell of summer grasses in the world
That can hardly be named or remembered
Past the moment of our wading through them,
And the world’s poor salvation in the word. Well,
Dear friend, you resisted. You were not mute.
Mark tells me he has seen the fawns grazing
With their mother in the dusk. Gorging on your roses –
So it seems they made it through the night
And neither dog nor car has got to them just yet.
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Robert Hass

Robert Hass (born 1941) – American poet, lives in San Francisco. In 1971 he completed his PhD at Standford University. Czesław Miłosz’s neighbor in Berkley and later translator of his poetry into English. He lists Wisława Szymborska and Zbigniew Herbert among his masters as well. Hass is a well-known translator of haiku. In the mid-nineties, he founded the association "River of Words" to promote the idea of ecoliterature. In 1995-1997 he was appointed a United States Poet Laureate.
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