Saturday, July 09, 2005
The Seasons: Summer - A poem by Robert Haas
We are not in August but at last it is beginning to feel like summer. The days have turned warmer although the drop in temperature is quite noticeable in the evening. Walks through the woods show signs of change. The buckeyes have turned brown; wild flowers mostly gone; grassy meadows no longer look cool and green. Fire danger signs are up.
I love this poem; very "Californian", if a poem could be described that way.
"Tahoe in August" by Robert Haas
"What summer proposes is simply happiness:
heat early in the morning, jays
raucuous in the pines. Frank and Ellen have a tennis game
at nine, Bill and Cheryl sleep on the deck
to watch a shower of summer stars. Nick and Sharon
stayed in, sat and talked the dark on,
drinking tea, and Jeanne walked into the meadow
in a white smock to write in her journal
by a grazing horse who seemed to want her company.
Some of them will swim in the afternoon.
Someone will drive to the hardware store to fetch
new latches for the kitchen door. Four o'clock;
the joggers jogging--it is one of them who sees
down the flowering slope the woman with her notebook
in her hand beside the white horse, gesturing, her hair
from a distance the copper color of hummingbirds
the slant light catches on the slope: the hikers
switchback down the canyon from the waterfall;
the readers are reading, Anna is about to meet Vronsky,
that nice M. Swann is dining in Cambray
with the aunts, and Carrie has come to Chicago.
What they want is happiness; someone to love them,
children, a summer by the lake. The woman who sets aside
her book blinks against the fuzzy dark,
re-entering the house. Her daughter drifts downstairs;
out late the night before, she has been napping,
and she's cross. Her mother tells her David telephoned.
"He's such a dear," the mother says, "I think
I make him nervous." The girl tosses her head as the horse
had done in the meadow while Jeanne read it in her dream.
"You can call him now, if you want," the mother says,
"I've got to get the chicken started,
I won't listen." "Did I say you would?"
the girl says quickly. The mother who has been slapped
this way before and done the same herself another summer
on a different lake says, "Ouch." The girl shrugs
sulkily. "I'm sorry." Looking down: "Something
about the way you said that pissed me off."
"Hannibal has wandered off," the mother says,
wryness in her voice, she is thinking it is August,
"why don't you see if he's at the Finley's house
again." The girl says, "God." The mother: "He loves
small children. It's livelier for him there."
The daughter, awake now, flounces out the door,
which slams. It is for all of them the sound of summer.
The mother she looks like stands at the counter snapping beans."
In 1995 Robert Haas was selected by the Library of Congress as Poet Laureate of the United States, the first poet from the west to be so honored. He is a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
reluctant to move from the one I have.
When I read the poem the first time, I could think of occasions when I had been on the receiving end of such slaps. I,too, have sometimes verbally slapped people. Perhaps not always intentionally, but we do use words that hurt.