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Iowa City: Early April



This morning a cat—bright orange—pawing at the one patch of new grass in the sand-and tanbark-colored leaves.

And last night the sapphire of the raccoon's eyes in the beam of the flashlight.
He was climbing a tree beside the house, trying to get onto the porch, I think, for a wad of oatmeal
Simmered in cider from the bottom of the pan we'd left out for the birds.

And earlier a burnished, somewhat dazed woodchuck, his coat gleaming with spring,
Loping toward his burrow in the roots of a tree among the drying winter's litter
Of old leaves on the floor of the woods, when I went out to get the New York Times.

And male cardinals whistling back and forth—sireeep, sreeep, sreeep—
Sets of three sweet full notes, weaving into and out of each other like the triplet rhymes in medieval poetry,
And the higher, purer notes of the tufted titmice among them,
High in the trees where they were catching what they could of the early sun.

And a doe and two yearlings, picking their way along the worrying path they'd made through the gully, their coats the color of the forest floor,
Stopped just at the roots of the great chestnut where the woodchuck's burrow was,
Froze, and the doe looked back over her shoulder at me for a long moment, and leapt forward,
Her young following, and bounded with that almost mincing precision in the landing of each hoof
Up the gully, over it, and out of sight. So that I remembered
Dreaming last night that a deer walked into the house while I was writing at the kitchen table,
Came in the glass door from the garden, looked at me with a stilled defiant terror, like a thing with no choices,
And, neck bobbing in that fragile-seeming, almost mechanical mix of arrest and liquid motion, came to the table
And snatched a slice of apple, and stood, and then quietened, and to my surprise did not leave again.

And those little captains, the chickadees, swift to the feeder and swift away.

And the squirrels with their smoke-plume tails trailing digging in the leaves to bury or find buried—
I'm told they don't remember where they put things, that it's an activity of incessant discovery—
Nuts, tree-fall proteins, whatever they forage from around the house of our leavings,

And the flameheaded woodpecker at the suet with his black-and-white ladderback elegant fierceness—
They take sunflower seeds and stash them in the rough ridges of the tree's bark
Where the beaks of the smoke-and-steel blue nuthatches can't quite get at them—
Though the nuthatches sometimes seem to get them as they con the trees methodically for spiders' eggs or some other overwintering insect's intricately packaged lump of futurity
Got from its body before the cold came on.

And the little bat in the kitchen lightwell—
When I climbed on a chair to remove the sheet of wimpled plastic and let it loose,
It flew straight into my face and I toppled to the floor, chair under me,
And it flared down the hall and did what seemed a frantic reconnoiter of the windowed, high-walled living room.
And lit on a brass firelog where it looked like a brown and ash
grey teenaged suede glove with Mephistophelean dreams,
And then, spurt of black sperm, up, out the window, and into the twilight woods.

All this life going on about my life, or living a life about all this life going on,
Being a creature, whatever my drama of the moment, at the edge of the raccoon's world—
He froze in my flashlight beam and looked down, no affect, just looked,
The ringtail curled and flared to make him look bigger and not to be messed with—
I was thinking he couldn't know how charming his comic-book robber's mask was to me,
That his experience of his being and mine of his and his of mine were things entirely apart,
Though there were between us, probably, energies of shrewd and respectful tact, based on curiosity and fear—
I knew about his talons whatever he knew about me—
And as for my experience of myself, it comes and goes, I'm not sure it's any one thing, as my experience of these creatures is not,
And I know I am often too far from it or too near, glad to be rid of it which is why it was such a happiness,
The bright orange of the cat, and the first pool of green grass-leaves in early April, and the birdsong—that orange and that green not colors you'd set next to one another in the human scheme.

And the crows' calls, even before you open your eyes, at sunup.
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Written on 1996

Submitted by Drone232 on April 14, 2022

4:13 min read
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Robert Hass

Robert Hass is one of the most celebrated and widely-read contemporary American poets. In addition to his success as a poet, Hass is also recognized as a leading critic and translator, notably of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and Japanese haiku masters Basho, Buson, and Issa. Critics celebrate Hass’s own poetry for its clarity of expression, its concision, and its imagery, often drawn from everyday life. “Hass has noted his own affinity for Japanese haiku,” the poet Forrest Gander remarked, “and his work similarly attends to the details of quotidian life with remarkable clarity.” Gander described Hass’s gift for “musical, descriptive, meditative poetry.” Carolyn Kizer wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Hass” is so intelligent that to read his poetry or prose, or to hear him speak, gives one an almost visceral pleasure.” Hass told interviewer David Remnick in the Chicago Review, “Poetry is a way of living. … a human activity like baking bread or playing basketball.” Hass’s first collection, Field Guide (1973), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. It drew on Hass’s native California countryside and background in Slavic studies. “The poems in Field Guide,” wrote Gander, “are rich with Russian accents, aromas of ferny anise and uncorked wines, and references to plant and animal life: the green whelks and rock crabs, tanagers and Queen Anne’s lace, sea spray and pepper trees of the Bay Area.” In the Southwest Review Michael Waters declared, “Field Guide is a means of naming things, of establishing an identity through one’s surroundings, of translating the natural world into one’s private history. This is a lot to accomplish, yet Robert Hass manages it with clarity and compassion.” Hass confirmed his ability with Praise (1979), his second volume of poems, which won the William Carlos Williams Award. “In many ways,” Gander explained, “Praise addresses the problems implicit in the first book: Can the act of naming the world separate us from the world? How is it possible to bear grief, to accept death, and how can the spirit endure?” Writing in the Chicago Review, Ira Sadoff remarked that Praise “might even be the strongest collection of poems to come out in the late seventies … [It] marks Hass’s arrival as an important, even pivotal, young poet.” In 1984, Hass published Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry, a collection of previously published essays and reviews. In the volume, the author examines American writers (including Robert Lowell and James Wright) as well as European and Japanese poets. The book was well-received and won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. “Mr. Hass’s style balances conversational directness and eloquent complexity,” noted New York Times Book Review contributor Anthony Libby. He concluded that “Mr. Hass believes that poetry is what defines the self, and it is his ability to describe that process that is the heart of this book’s pleasure.” Since the publication of Twentieth Century Pleasures, Hass has continued to write both poetry and prose. His third collection of poetry, Human Wishes (1989), experimented with longer lines and prose paragraphs, privileging process and meditation over the images that had filled his earlier work. David Barber, writing for the Boston Review, noted that Hass had “cultivated a more open, intimately epistolary verse that makes room for everything from strenuous metaphysics, beguiling storytelling, and wry recollections to haiku-like snapshots, flinty epigrams, and tremulous lyricism.” The Nation critic Don Bogen explained that Human Wishes ”reveals [Hass’s] basic concerns: He is a student of desire, of what we want and how likely we are to get it.” “In Human Wishes,” Bogen concluded, “Robert Hass captures both the brightness of the world and its vanishing.” Hass paid tribute to some of his non-Western mentors in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (1994), translations of short works by the most famous masters of the short Japanese poem. “The translations … must by anyone’s standard be considered remarkable poetic achievements in themselves,” wrote Andrew Rathmann in the Chicago Review, “[They’re] comparable—in terms of sheer written fluency—to the best poems in his three previous books” of poetry. When it was published in the mid-90s, Hass’s book also brought a traditional Japaense poetic form to an American audience. Hass’s other major work as a translator is his decades-long project of translating the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. With Milosz, Hass has translated over seven collections of the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s work. In an interview with Guernica, Hass talked about the influence of Milosz on his own thinking about poetry and politics. “You can aim for perfection if you stay away from the hard subjects. But if you’re going to do what Milosz does, you can’t aim for perfection; your work is going to be messy and opinionated,” Hass argued. Hass's next collection of poems, Sun Und more…

All Robert Hass poems | Robert Hass Books

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2 Comments

  • Dougla$Irishman
    Who would ever have thought of that, posting other people's poetry ?
    I am just a poetry geek learning what's it all bout !
    LikeReplyReport4 months ago
  • Dougla$Irishman
    Your resume is almost as long as your "poem " !
    A am new to poetry but like A Tennyson - The Bar, A Kilmer - A Tree or Robert Frost - A Road Not Taken for their simplicity, short and sweet to the reader !
    I guess poetry has no limits ! 
    LikeReplyReport4 months ago
    • Drone232
      Oh, it's not my poem. I only heard of the author today. I'm just copy-pasting poems I don't see on poetry.com to fill out the website.
      LikeReplyReport4 months ago

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"Iowa City: Early April" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 16 Aug. 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/124841/iowa-city%3A-early-april>.

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