The Yellow Bicycle

by Emily

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,
cat’s 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 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!

Hass’ work is consistently some of my favorite. I wrote a poem my last semester of college that was inspired by this poem and it’s one of my favorite. The prose section in the middle of this is satisfying in its simplicity — Hass understands how to incorporate details with precision.