Poem with a Cucumber in It.
Sometimes from this hillside just after sunset The rim of the sky
takes on a tinge Of the palest green, like the flesh of a cucumber When
you peel it carefully.
In Crete once, in the summer, When it was still hot at midnight, We sat
in a taverna by the water Watching the squid boats rocking in the
moonlight, Drinking retsina and eating salads Of cool, chopped cucumber
and yogurt and a little dill.
A hint of salt, something like starch, something Like an attar of
grasses or green leaves On the tongue is the tongue And the cucumber
Evolving toward each other.
Since cumbersome is a word, Cumber must have been a word, Lost to us
now, and even then, For a person feeling encumbered, It must have felt
orderly and right-minded To stand at a sink and slice a cucumber.
If you think I am going to make A sexual joke in this poem, you are
In the old torment of the earth When the fires were cooling and
disposing themselves Into granite and limestone and serpentine and
shale, It is possible to imagine that, under yellowish chemical clouds,
The molten froth, having burned long enough, Was already dreaming of
release, And that the dream, dimly But with increasingly distinctness,
took the form Of water, and that it was then, still more dimly, that it
imagined The dark green skin and opal green flesh of cucumbers.
ROBERT HASS served as poet laureate of the United States from
1995 to 1997; he is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American
Poets. The poems in this issue all appear in his forthcoming book, Time
and Materials, Poems 1997-2005 (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007).