Heroic Simile

Robert Hass

 
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.
 
From Praise by Robert Hass, published by the Ecco Press. Copyright © 1978 by Robert Hass. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

First Things at the Last Minute by Robert Hass
Privilege of Being by Robert Hass
Many are making love. Up above, the angels
The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass
They are walking in the woods along the coast


Further Reading

Poems About Movies
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)
by A. Van Jordan
A Score for Tourist Movies
by Mary Austin Speaker
After the Movie
by Marie Howe
An American in Hollywood
by Frank Bidart
Au Hasard Balthazar
by Stacy Szymaszek
Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara
Brad Pitt
by Aaron Smith
Chaplinesque
by Hart Crane
Daffy Duck In Hollywood
by John Ashbery
French Movie
by David Lehman
Homage to Sharon Stone
by Lynn Emanuel
Old Boy
by A. Van Jordan
On the Waterfront
by B. H. Fairchild
One Shies at the Prospect of Raising Yet Another Defense of Cannibalism
by Josh Bell
To the Film Industry in Crisis
by Frank O'Hara
Trigger Guard
by Joanna Fuhrman
When There Were Ghosts
by Alberto Ríos