Four Poems for Robin

By Gary Snyder b. 1930 Gary Snyder
Siwashing it out once in Siuslaw Forest

I slept under   rhododendron   
All night   blossoms fell
Shivering on   a sheet of cardboard   
Feet stuck   in my pack
Hands deep   in my pockets   
Barely   able   to   sleep.
I remembered   when we were in school   
Sleeping together   in a big warm bed
We were   the youngest lovers
When we broke up   we were still nineteen.   
Now our   friends are married   
You teach   school back east   
I dont mind   living this way   
Green hills   the long blue beach   
But sometimes   sleeping in the open
I think back   when I had you.


A spring night in Shokoku-ji

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms   
At night in an orchard in Oregon.   
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao   
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.


An autumn morning in Shokoku-ji

Last night watching the Pleiades,   
Breath smoking in the moonlight,   
Bitter memory like vomit   
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag   
On mats on the porch   
Under thick autumn stars.   
In dream you appeared   
(Three times in nine years)   
Wild, cold, and accusing.   
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.   
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.   
The first time I have   
Ever seen them close.


December at Yase
You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard   
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.   
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have   
Gone by: I’ve always known
          where you were—
I might have gone to you   
Hoping to win your love back.   
You still are single.

I didn’t.
I thought I must make it alone. I   
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,   
Does the grave, awed intensity   
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others   
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had   
Lived many lives.

And may never now know   
If I am a fool
Or have done what my   
       karma demands.

Gary Snyder, “Four Poems for Robin” from The Back Country. Copyright © 1968 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: No Nature: New and Selected Poems (1992)

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Poet Gary Snyder b. 1930

Subjects Nature, Spring, Relationships, Love, Fall, Desire, First Love, Infatuation & Crushes, Unrequited Love, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse