ROBERT HASS v. RICHARD CECIL AS MARCH MADNESS PLAY CONTINUES

richard cecil

Richard Cecil: he had the APR 1970s look.

March Madness Report: Hass (no.3 seed) v. Cecil (no. 14 seed) in the West.

The Hass poem, “Spring Rain,” is fresh, clear, hopeful; Cecil’s “Apology” is phantasmagoric, freezing, sad.

At the tip-off, Team Cecil plows into Hass with Jungian frenzy:

The war is fought by soldiers in machines
manufactured by their wives: steel skin,
for example, impervious to a caress.
But I am single.  I line up with conscripts.
I’m issued sleep confiscated from a civilian
in a safe country. I’m handed a photograph
of his lover to tape inside my locker.

This is manly stuff, strange, Jungian, manly stuff.  Gruff and casual (what the hell is that “for example” doing in the poem?).

Where Cecil is all Jung and confusion, Hass is all geography and clarity:

Now the rain is falling, freshly in the intervals between sunlight,

a Pacific squall started no one knows where, drawn east
as the drifts of war air make a channel;

it moves its own way, like water or the wind,

and spills this rain passing over.  The Sierras will catch
it as last snow flurries before summer, observed only by
the wakened marmots at 10,000 feet,

and we will come across it again as larkspur and penstemon
sprouting along a creekside above Sonora Pass next August.

And the snowmelt will trickle into Dead Man’s Creek and
the creek spill into the Stanislaus and the Stanislaus into
the San Joaquin and the San Joaquin into the slow salt marshes
of the day.

Soon we are in someone’s kitchen and poppies in a vase as Hass makes us feel all cozy and comfortable and human and zen.

But Cecil leads us out into the wild wilderness of a dream:

I wake beside you thousands of mornings later
when the sergeant shakes my shoulder
to ask if I want a kiss. If it seems too rough,
too desperate for one night’s separation
with only sleep between us, excuse me,
there was a war lost and almost a soldier
with it, not in the jungle with the rest,
but solitary, hunted, on the ice.

With seconds to go, Hass has the ball trailing by one!

Beauty passes to Significance, back to Nature, Nature holds it, find Diary, Diary dribbles into the corner, back to Nature, Nature a bounce-pass to Beauty who wheels into the lane, finds Significance underneath…who…oh no! the ball goes off his foot—OUT OF BOUNDS!

TIME RUNS OUT FOR HASS!

ANOTHER UPSET!  

RICHARD CECIL BEATS ROBERT HASS, 59-58!

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4 Comments

  1. Noochness said,

    March 12, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Apology

    The war is fought by soldiers in machines
    manufactured by their wives: steel skin,
    for example, impervious to caress.
    But I am single. I line up with conscripts.
    I’m issued sleep confiscated from a civilian
    in a safe country. I’m handed a photograph
    of his lover to tape inside my locker.
    I’m marched to a bed too narrow for her
    and me and him together, though he lies
    inside me, though she’s very slender.
    How heavy this green blanket
    lies against my neck! How cold this rifle!
    I’m told the dream which he surrendered,
    half in one ear, half in the other,
    about Alaska. But it twists inside me.
    Which of us is wolf? Which caribou?
    Which the tundra? Nobody volunteers his throat,
    his appetite, or his cold white isolation
    for the sake of peace to anybody else tonight.
    We circle on the snow, but the snow drifts over.

    I wake beside you thousands of mornings later
    when the sergeant shakes my shoulder
    to ask if I want a kiss. If it seems too rough,
    too desperate for one night’s separation
    with only sleep between us, excuse me,
    there was a war lost and almost a soldier
    with it, not in the jungle with the rest,
    but solitary, hunted, on the ice.

    Richard Cecil

  2. Noochness said,

    March 12, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Spring Rain

    Now the rain is falling, freshly, in the intervals between sunlight,

    a Pacific squall started no one knows where, drawn east
    as the drifts of warm air make a channel;

    it moves its own way, like water or the mind,

    and spills this rain passing over. The Sierras will catch
    it as last snow flurries before summer, observed only by
    the wakened marmots at 10,000 feet,

    and we will come across it again as larkspur and penstemon
    sprouting along a creekside above Sonora Pass next August.

    And the snowmelt will trickle into Dead Man’s Creek and
    the creek spill into the Stanislaus and the Stanislaus into
    the San Joaquin and the San Joaquin into the slow salt marshes
    of the day.

    That’s not the end of it: the gray jays of the mountains
    eat larkspur seeds which cannot propagate otherwise.

    To stimulate the process you have to soak gathered seeds
    all night in the acids of old coffee

    and then score them gently with a very sharp knife before
    you plant them in the garden.

    You might use what was left of the coffee we drank in Lisa’s
    kitchen visiting.

    There were orange poppies on the table in a clear glass vase,
    stained near the bottom to the color of sunrise;

    the unstated theme was the blessedness of gathering and the
    blessing of dispersal—

    it made you glad for beauty like that, casual and intense,
    lasting as long as the poppies last.

    Robert Hass


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