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Donald Hall: 14th US Poet Laureate and husband to Jane Kenyon

He often wrote about the importance of work as a way to find meaning in life

  • Her Long Illness
  • Daybreak until nightfall,
  • he sat by his wife at the hospital
  • while chemotherapy dripped
  • through the catheter into her heart.
  • He drank coffee and read
  • the Globe. He paced; he worked
  • on poems; he rubbed her back
  • and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
  • they wept and affirmed
  • their love for each other, witlessly,
  • over and over again.
  • When it snowed one morning Jane gazed
  • at the darkness blurred
  • with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
  • which she called Igor
  • slowly past the nurses’ pods, as far
  • as the outside door
  • so that she could smell the snowy air. 
  • Safe Sex
  • If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
  • they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words; 
  • if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
  • only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
  • as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
  • then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
  • no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
  • no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
  • apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge
  • The Painted Bed
  • ‘Even when I danced erect
  • by the Nile’s garden
  • I constructed Necropolis.
  • Ten million fellaheen cells
  • of my body floated stones
  • to establish a white museum.’
  • Grisly, foul, and terrific
  • is the speech of bones,
  • thighs and arms slackened
  • into desiccated sacs of flesh
  • hanging from an armature
  • where muscle was, and fat.
  • ‘I lie on the painted bed
  • diminishing, concentrated
  • on the journey I undertake
  • to repose without pain
  • in the palace of darkness,
  • my body beside your body.’
Donald Hall

Donald Hall (1928-2018) was an American poet and literary critic with a prolific bibliography which includes poetry (22 volumes), biography, memoirs, essays and children’s literature. He was the first poetry editor of The Paris Review and 14th Poet Laureate of the United States. His work is full of rural imagery and he often wrote about the importance of work as a way to find meaning in life. With his wife Jane Kenyon, he lived and worked at Eagle Pond Farm, which served as a palette for his verse and the common ground on which he and Kenyon built their marriage and mutual poetic inspiration.

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Amornrat Phuchom/Getty Images Plus

  • Her Long Illness
  • Daybreak until nightfall,
  • he sat by his wife at the hospital
  • while chemotherapy dripped
  • through the catheter into her heart.
  • He drank coffee and read
  • the Globe. He paced; he worked
  • on poems; he rubbed her back
  • and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
  • they wept and affirmed
  • their love for each other, witlessly,
  • over and over again.
  • When it snowed one morning Jane gazed
  • at the darkness blurred
  • with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
  • which she called Igor
  • slowly past the nurses’ pods, as far
  • as the outside door
  • so that she could smell the snowy air. 
  • Safe Sex
  • If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
  • they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words; 
  • if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
  • only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
  • as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
  • then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
  • no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
  • no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
  • apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge
  • The Painted Bed
  • ‘Even when I danced erect
  • by the Nile’s garden
  • I constructed Necropolis.
  • Ten million fellaheen cells
  • of my body floated stones
  • to establish a white museum.’
  • Grisly, foul, and terrific
  • is the speech of bones,
  • thighs and arms slackened
  • into desiccated sacs of flesh
  • hanging from an armature
  • where muscle was, and fat.
  • ‘I lie on the painted bed
  • diminishing, concentrated
  • on the journey I undertake
  • to repose without pain
  • in the palace of darkness,
  • my body beside your body.’
Donald Hall

Donald Hall (1928-2018) was an American poet and literary critic with a prolific bibliography which includes poetry (22 volumes), biography, memoirs, essays and children’s literature. He was the first poetry editor of The Paris Review and 14th Poet Laureate of the United States. His work is full of rural imagery and he often wrote about the importance of work as a way to find meaning in life. With his wife Jane Kenyon, he lived and worked at Eagle Pond Farm, which served as a palette for his verse and the common ground on which he and Kenyon built their marriage and mutual poetic inspiration.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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