From My Commonplace Book - 46

The Yellow Bicycle

by Robert Hass

The woman I love is greedy,
but she refuses greed.
She walks so straightly.
When I ask her what she wants,
she says, A yellow bicycle.


Sun, sunflower,
coltsfoot on the roadside,
a goldfinch, the sign
that says Yield, her hair,
cats eyes, his hunger
and a yellow bicycle.


Once, when they had made love in the middle of the night and
it was very sweet, they decided they were hungry, so they got up,
got dressed, and drove downtown to an all-night donut shop.
Chicano kids lounged outside, a few drunks, and one black man
selling dope. Just at the entrance there was an old woman in a
thin floral print dress. She was barefoot. Her face was covered
with sores and dry peeling skin. The sores looked like raisins and
her skin was the dry yellow of a parchment lampshade ravaged by
light and tossed away. They thought she must have been hungry
and, coming out again with a white paper bag full of hot rolls,
they stopped to offer her one. She looked at them out of her small
eyes, bewildered, and shook her head for a little while, and said,
very kindly, No.


Her song to the yellow bicycle:
The boats on the bay
have nothing on you,
my swan, my sleek one!

What made me think this week to post a poem by Robert Hass (American, born 1941) was the news that the 70-year-old former Poet Laureate had been participating in Occupy UC Berkeley when police began beating protesters.

Jesse Kornbluth writing for
The Huffington Post explained that "several thousand students, faculty, and employees of the university came together to protest a proposed 81% tuition hike, increased privatization of the UC system, the troubling conflicts of interest demonstrated by Board of Regents members' private business interests."

He described the violence: ". . . they broke the ribs of. . . English professor, poet Geoffrey O'Brien. When the police wouldn't stop beating him even after he too had fallen to the ground, a good friend and fellow graduate student, Ben Cullen, rushed in and demanded that they stop. The police, in turn, rained multiple blows on him, bruising his ribs as well. And just in case it's not clear yet that the violence was not only against 'some kids looking to make a fuss,' the police also thought it necessary to jab 70-year-old former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Hass several times in the stomach with a baton as well."

Where I first heard this news was not at
The Huffington Post, however, but at New Verse News, the website ( run by poet James Penha, who publishes "politically progressive poetry on current events and topical issues." It was Khary Jackson's poem "Witness," published last week, on the 16th, that alerted me to the story about Robert Hass.


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