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A man thinks lilacs against white houses, having seen them in the farm
country south of Tacoma in April, and can't find his way to a sentence, a
brushstroke carrying the energy of brush and stroke
-as if he were stranded on the aureole of the memory of a woman's
and she, after the drive from the airport and a chat with her mother and a
shower, which is ritual cleansing and a passage through water to
had walked up the mountain on a summer evening.
Away from, not toward. As if the garden roses were a little hobby of the
dead. As if the deer pellets in the pale grass and the wavering moon and
the rondure-as they used to say, upping the ante-of heaven
were admirable completely, but only as common nouns of a plainer
intention, moon, shit, sky,
as if spirit attended to plainness only, the more complicated forms
exhausting it, tossed-off grapestems becoming crystal chandeliers,
as if radiance were the meaning of meaning, and justice responsible to
daydream not only for the strict beauty of denial,
but as a felt need to reinvent the inner form of wishing.
Only the force of the brushstroke keeps the lilacs from pathos-the hes
and shes of the comedy may or may not get together, but if they are to get
then the interval created by if, to which mind and breath attend, nervous
as the grazing animals the first brushes painted,
has become habitable space, lived in beyond wishing.
Excerpted from Human Wishes by Robert Hass Copyright © 2003 by Robert Hass
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.