Is poetry dangerous?
The self botanizes. He dreams of breeding, one day, an odorless narcissus.
The otters are gone from the bay and I have seen five horses easy in the grassy marsh beside three snowy egrets. Bird cries and the unembittered sun, wings and the white bodies of the birds, it is morning. Citizens are rising to murder in their moral dreams.
The pelicans are gone which had, wheeling, Written Chinese poems on the sea. The grebes are gone That feasted on the endless hunger of the flashing runs Of salmon. And I imagine that he saw, finally, That though rock stands, it does not breed. He feels specific rage. Feels, obscurely, that his sex Is his, not god-force only, but his own soft flesh grown thick With inconsolable desire. The grebes are gone. He feels a plain man's elegiac tenderness, An awkward brotherhood with the world's numb poor His poems had despised. Rage and tenderness are pain. He feels pain as rounding at the hips, as breasts. Pain blossoms in his belly like the first dark Stirrings of a child, a surfeit of the love that he had bled to rock And twisted into cypress haunts above the cliffs. He knows he has come back to mourn, To grieve, womanish, a hundred patient years Along this fragile coast. I imagine the sky's arch, Cloud-swift, lifts him then, all ache in sex and breasts, Beyond the leached ashes of dead fire, The small jeweled hunger in the seabird's eye.
Summer is over and his friends are gone— vanished as inexplicably as the pearly fluids which gushed from sporting ladies in the novels of a hundred years before. The leaves of the plane tree brown and curl, the world tenses in the early cold toward final literal insistences: autumn, death, the cold comfort of reason and clitoral orgasm. In the day's work he married two seven-sided orgies in a ceremony as delicate and involuted as copulating octopi, wafting pale purple hedges of sea heather. His friends are gone and he is reflective. The essence of seasons is repetition. They die and shine, die and shine.
A friend, the other night, read poems full of rage against the poor uses of desire in mere enactment. A cruel music lingered in my mind. The poems made me think I understood why men cut women up. Hating the source, nerved, irreducible, that music hacked the body till the source was gone. Then the heavy cock wields, rises, spits seed at random and the man shrieks, homeless and perfected in the empty dark. His god is a thrust of infinite desire beyond the tame musk of companionable holes. It descends to women occasionally with contempt and languid tenderness. I tried to hate my wife's cunt, the sweet place where I rooted, to imagine the satisfied disgust of cutting her apart, bloody and exultant in the bad lighting and scratchy track of butcher shops in short experimental films. It was easier than I might have supposed. o spider cunt, o raw devourer. I wondered what to make of myself. There had been a thaw. I looked for green shoots in the garden, wild flowers in the woods. I found none.
(It makes me want to wrench my heart out.)
I think Hass is strongest at his most elegiac.
(from "Applications of the Doctrine", "Palo Alto: The Marshes," "The Return of Robinson Jeffers," "The Pornographer, Melancholy," "In Weather," from Robert Hass's Field Guide)