Poetic Procrastination

I’m attempting to write a paper about mirror neurons, economics and literature and it is not going particularly well. Time is running out, but still I just want to retreat into poetry for awhile. When I was in San Francisco last year, I had the opportunity to visit City Lights Bookstore. And while the staff were the typical snobs that unfortunately frequent beautiful bookstores (something about working in a beautiful and famous bookstore makes these people take on a persona of achievement and success based entirely on their workplace. They’re kind of like those awful snobs that work in high-fashion retail, you know, the Pretty Women type?) it is true that this shop deserves its place in history. It’s an incredibly special place, and with the Brautigan and Laura Riding I brought home, I got hold of the latest Robert Hass. Almost a year ago and I still haven’t managed to read it! Such sadness. But I share with you this poem, one of my favourites from his collection, Time and Materials:

The Problem of Describing Color                                     

If I said – remembering in summer,                                 The cardinal’s sudden smudge of red                                In the bare gray winter woods –

If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat                      Of the girl with the pooched-out lips                        Dangling a wiry lapdog                                                        In the painting by Renoir –

If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut –

Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air                                                                                      On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano –

If I said, her one red earring tugging at her silky lobe,

If she tells fortunes with a deck of fallen leaves                                                                 Until it comes out right –

Rouged nipple, mouth –

(How could you not love a woman                                                                                                         Who cheats at the Tarot?)

Red, I said. Sudden, red.


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