Heroic Simile Poem by Robert Hass

Heroic Simile

Rating: 3.2

When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai
in the gray rain,
in Cinemascope and the Tokugawa dynasty,
he fell straight as a pine, he fell
as Ajax fell in Homer
in chanted dactyls and the tree was so huge
the woodsman returned for two days
to that lucky place before he was done with the sawing
and on the third day he brought his uncle.

They stacked logs in the resinous air,
hacking the small limbs off,
tying those bundles separately.
The slabs near the root
were quartered and still they were awkwardly large;
the logs from midtree they halved:
ten bundles and four great piles of fragrant wood,
moons and quarter moons and half moons
ridged by the saw's tooth.

The woodsman and the old man his uncle
are standing in midforest
on a floor of pine silt and spring mud.
They have stopped working
because they are tired and because
I have imagined no pack animal
or primitive wagon. They are too canny
to call in neighbors and come home
with a few logs after three days' work.
They are waiting for me to do something
or for the overseer of the Great Lord
to come and arrest them.

How patient they are!
The old man smokes a pipe and spits.
The young man is thinking he would be rich
if he were already rich and had a mule.
Ten days of hauling
and on the seventh day they'll probably
be caught, go home empty-handed
or worse. I don't know
whether they're Japanese or Mycenaean
and there's nothing I can do.
The path from here to that village
is not translated. A hero, dying,
gives off stillness to the air.
A man and a woman walk from the movies
to the house in the silence of separate fidelities.
There are limits to imagination.

Heroic Simile
Michael Shepherd 07 November 2006

Not perhaps the best single-poem introduction to this writer of humanity and humour - here reflecting on the nature of imagination - but go seek his poetry elsewhere (Poemhunter has to abide by copyright rules re living poets) - he's a delightful and highly accessible man and poet. There's a fine reading by him on Google Video.

8 4 Reply
Craig Steiger 24 August 2007

Very much appreciate this poem..... as usual in a Hass poem, so much is going on, and by the end we feel like we've been through a psychic odyssey... Well done. Craig Steiger

7 3 Reply
Jay Lung 30 January 2005

I don't get it........

8 2 Reply
Susan B Anthony 16 June 2020

Very good poem I love it a lot and it makes me feel very relaxed

0 0 Reply
ItsAlexaAndSkylar 24 April 2020

Perhaps If this was in the Future i don't what will might Happen...

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Susan Williams 23 March 2016

I hope I was right to burst out laughing at the end of this! ! ! I'm pretty sure it would have been all right with Haas. He kept speed dialing through a series of scenarios for his imaginary woodsman and his uncle to deal with only to realize that the poem was falling apart- - (“I have imagined no pack animal.... They are waiting for me to do something”) . The poem concludes, simply, “There are limits to imagination.” Love it. Get a plot started, got the characters sitting around being characters and then....poof, ran out of imagination. Empathy will only get a writer so far!

19 2 Reply
Neil Young 24 April 2009

This poem has all the hallmarks that make a good Robert Hass poem. I love the relaxed pace, the strong meandering imagery and the subtle humour. I recently discovered RH's Time And Materials collection from 2007. A book I would certainly recommend.

7 5 Reply

WAR mankind's greatest passion or should I say favorite past time? I suppose continuous fighting is as ingrained as anything else in the human psyche.Well Art imitates life and life imitates art and it's an unending cycle.Death is the only winner and the great equalizer-pacifyer-THE END Great provocative work.I will look for more of this poet's works! ! ! ! ! ! A ten from me I could never give him less! ! ! !

7 6 Reply
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