Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Without by Donald Hall, excerpts.

  1. #1

    Default Without by Donald Hall, excerpts.

    I?ve twice finished reading Without by Donald Hall, a significant of U.S. poet. It is a collection of poetry written to his late wife, Jane Kenyon, an accomplished poet herself. The pages chronicle their love and raw grief as they struggle together with her final battle with leukemia.

    ?Remembered happiness is agony; so is remembered agony.?

    Two abridged excerpts from Without.
    -pm

    Last Days
    by Donald Hall

    "It was reasonable
    to expect.? So he wrote. The next day,
    in a consultation room,
    Jane's hematologist Letha Mills sat down,
    stiff, her assistant
    standing with her back to the door.
    "I have terrible news,"
    Letha told them. ?The leukemia is back.
    There's nothing to do.?
    The four of them wept. He asked how long,
    why did it happen now?
    Jane asked only: ?Can I die at home??

    Home that afternoon,
    they threw her medicines into the trash.
    Jane vomited. He wailed
    while she remained dry-eyed ? silent,
    trying to let go. At night
    he picked up the telephone to make
    calls that brought
    a child or a friend into the horror.

    The next morning,
    they worked choosing among her poems
    for Otherwise, picked
    hymns for her funeral, and supplied each
    other words as they wrote
    and revised her obituary. The day after,
    with more work to do
    on her book, he saw how weak she felt,
    and said maybe not now; maybe
    later. Jane shook her head: ?Now,? she said.
    ?We have to finish it now.?
    Later, as she slid exhausted into sleep,
    she said, ?Wasn't that fun?
    To work together? Wasn't that fun??

    He asked her, ?What clothes
    should we dress you in, when we bury you??
    ?I hadn't thought,? she said.
    ?I wondered about the white salwar
    kameez,? he said ?
    her favorite Indian silk they bought
    in Pondicherry a year
    and a half before, which she wore for best
    or prettiest afterward.
    She smiled. ?Yes. Excellent,? she said.
    He didn't tell her
    that a year earlier, dreaming awake,
    he had seen her
    in the coffin in her white salwar kameez.

    Still, he couldn't stop
    planning. That night he broke out with,
    ?When Gus dies I'll
    have him cremated and scatter his ashes
    on your grave!? She laughed
    and her big eyes quickened and she nodded:
    ?It will be good
    for the daffodils.? She lay pallid back
    on the flowered pillow:
    ?Perkins, how do you think of these things??

    They talked about their
    adventures ? driving through England
    when they first married,
    and excursions to China and India.
    Also they remembered
    ordinary days ? pond summers, working
    on poems together,
    walking the dog, reading Chekhov
    aloud. When he praised
    thousands of afternoon assignations
    that carried them into
    bliss and repose on this painted bed,
    Jane burst into tears
    and cried, ?No more ****ing. No more ****ing!?

    Incontinent three nights
    before she died, Jane needed lifting
    onto the commode.
    He wiped her and helped her back into bed.
    At five he fed the dog
    and returned to find her across the room,
    sitting in a straight chair.
    When she couldn't stand, how could she walk?
    He feared she would fall
    and called for an ambulance to the hospital,
    but when he told Jane,
    her mouth twisted down and tears started.
    ?Do we have to?? He canceled.
    Jane said, ?Perkins, be with me when I die.?

    ?Dying is simple,? she said.
    ?What's worst is? the separation.?
    When she no longer spoke,
    they lay along together, touching,
    and she fixed on him
    her beautiful enormous round brown eyes,
    shining, unblinking,
    and passionate with love and dread.

    One by one they came,
    the oldest and dearest, to say goodbye
    to this friend of the heart.
    At first she said their names, wept, and touched;
    then she smiled; then
    turned one mouth-corner up. On the last day
    she stared silent goodbyes
    with her hands curled and her eye stuck open.

    Leaving his place beside her,
    where her eyes stared, he told her,
    ?I'll put these letters
    in the box.? She had not spoken
    for three hours, and now Jane said
    her last words: ?O.K.?

    At eight that night,
    her eyes open as they stayed
    until she died, brain-stem breathing
    started, he bent to kiss
    her pale cool lips again, and felt them
    one last time gather
    and purse and peck to kiss him back.

    In the last hours, she kept
    her forearms raised with pale fingers clenched
    at cheek level, like
    the goddess figurine over the bathroom sink.
    Sometimes her right fist flicked
    or spasmed toward her face. For twelve hours
    until she died, he kept
    scratching Jane Kenyon's big bony nose.
    A sharp, almost sweet
    smell began to rise from her open mouth.
    He watched her chest go still.
    With his thumb he closed her round brown eyes.

    LETTER WITH NO ADDRESS
    by Donald Hall

    Your daffodils rose up
    and collapsed in their yellow
    bodies on the hillside
    garden above the bricks
    you laid out in sand, squatting
    with pants pegged and face
    masked like a beekeeper?s
    against the black flies.
    Buttercups circle the planks
    of the old wellhead
    this May while your silken
    gardener?s body withers or moulds
    in the Proctor graveyard.
    I drive and talk to you crying
    and come back to this house
    to talk to your photographs.

    At five A.M., when I walk outside,
    mist lies thick on hayfields.
    By eight the air is clear,
    cool, sunny with the pale yellow
    light of mid-May. Kearsarge
    rises huge and distinct,
    each birch and balsam visible.
    To the west the waters
    of Eagle Pond waver
    and flash through popples just
    leafing out.

    Always the weather,
    writing its book of the world,
    returns you to me. Ordinary days were best,
    when we worked over poems
    in our separate rooms.
    I remember watching you gaze
    out the January window
    into the garden of snow
    and ice, your face rapt
    as you imagined burgundy lilies.

    Your presence in this house
    is almost as enormous
    and painful as your absence.

  2. #2
    Ancient Arachnid Spider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    5,424

    Default

    Very touching. Obviously written as a catharsis (but isn't all poetry?).

    "Your presence in this house
    is almost as enormous
    and painful as your absence."


    Profound sentiment with which I can identify.
    Atrophy: what you get when you win atournament.

  3. #3

    Default

    Spider, thinking of you I nearly did not post it. I hope it caused you no pain.

  4. #4
    Ancient Arachnid Spider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    5,424

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pm01 View Post
    Spider, thinking of you I nearly did not post it. I hope it caused you no pain.
    Bittersweet memories - but more sweet than bitter. I appreciated it, but thank you for your consideration.
    Atrophy: what you get when you win atournament.

  5. #5

    Default

    February: Thinking of Flowers
    by Jane Kenyon

    Now wind torments the field,
    turning the white surface back
    on itself, back and back on itself,
    like an animal licking a wound.

    Nothing but white--the air, the light;
    only one brown milkweed pod
    bobbing in the gully, smallest
    brown boat on the immense tide.

    A single green sprouting thing
    would restore me. . . .

    Then think of the tall delphinium,
    swaying, or the bee when it comes
    to the tongue of the burgundy lily.

    Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks
    by Jane Kenyon

    I am the blossom pressed in a book,
    found again after two hundred years. . . .

    I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .

    When the young girl who starves
    sits down to a table
    she will sit beside me. . . .

    I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .

    I am water rushing to the wellhead,
    filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

    I am the patient gardener
    of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

    I am the stone step,
    the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

    I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
    the longest hair, white
    before the rest. . . .

    I am there in the basket of fruit
    presented to the widow. . . .

    I am the musk rose opening
    unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

    I am the one whose love
    overcomes you, already with you
    when you think to call my name. . . .

    Notes from the Other Side
    by Jane Kenyon

    I divested myself of despair
    and fear when I came here.

    Now there is no more catching
    one's own eye in the mirror,

    there are no bad books, no plastic,
    no insurance premiums, and of course

    no illness. Contrition
    does not exist, nor gnashing

    of teeth. No one howls as the first
    clod of earth hits the casket.

    The poor we no longer have with us.
    Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

    and God, as promised, proves
    to be mercy clothed in light.

  6. #6
    Olympic Champ
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    It's a long way from East Colorado
    Posts
    3,740

    Default

    Here's a poem about a different kind of loss.

    The Necessity for Irony by Eavan Boland


    On Sundays,
    when the rain held off,
    after lunch or later,
    I would go with my twelve year old
    daughter into town,
    and put down the time
    at junk sales, antique fairs.

    There I would
    lean over tables,
    absorbed by
    lace, wooden frames,
    glass. My daughter stood
    at the other end of the room,
    her flame-coloured hair
    obvious whenever---
    which was not often---

    I turned around.
    I turned around.
    She was gone.
    Grown. No longer ready
    to come with me, whenever
    a dry Sunday
    held out its promises
    of small histories. Endings.

    When I was young
    I studied styles: their use
    and origin. Which age
    was known for which
    ornament: and was always drawn
    to a lyric speech, a civil tone.
    But never thought
    I would have the need,
    as I do now, for a darker one:

    Spirit of irony,
    my caustic author
    of the past, of memory---
    and of its pain, which returns
    hurts, stings---reproach me now,
    remind me
    that I was in those rooms,
    with my child,
    with my back turned to her,
    searching---oh irony!---
    for beautiful things.

  7. #7

    Default

    Matclone and PM01. Thanks for sharing. All were moving.

    Spider, in life those that have never loved or been loved just flicker out and are gone. Those that loved will shine on forever in the hearts and minds of all who shared in that love. Allow that brilliance to push the hurt and pain back into the darkness.

  8. #8
    Ancient Arachnid Spider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    5,424

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hardcore View Post
    Matclone and PM01. Thanks for sharing. All were moving.

    Spider, in life those that have never loved or been loved just flicker out and are gone. Those that loved will shine on forever in the hearts and minds of all who shared in that love. Allow that brilliance to push the hurt and pain back into the darkness.
    It has and thank you. You are a wise man.
    Atrophy: what you get when you win atournament.

Tags for this Thread

analysis without by donald hall, analyze donald hall poetry, donal hall without, donald hall and without, donald hall last day, donald hall last days, donald hall letter after a year, donald hall letter with no address, donald hall letter with no address analysis, donald hall letter with no address review, donald hall letters without addresses, donald hall no address, donald hall poem on death hymn, donald hall poems from without, donald hall poems letters with no address, donald hall poems otherwise excerpts, donald hall poems without, donald hall the funeral, donald hall the last days, donald hall two hundred, donald hall without, donald hall without analysis, donald hall without excerpt, donald hall without poems, donald hall- without, donald hall-without, donald halls without, hall last days poem, hall letter with no address theme, junk, last days donald hall, letter with no address by donald hall analysis, letter with no address by donald hall full poem, letter with no address donald hall, letter with no address donald hall theme, letter with no address poem by donald hall, poem without by donald hall, poems by donald hall without, the funeral poem by donald hall, the last days donald hall, the poem without by donald hall, the poem without donald hall, theme of donald hall letter with no address, without by donald hall, without by donald hall., without by donalf hall, without donald hall, without donald hall poem, without letter with no address donald hall, without poem by donald hall

View Tag Cloud

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •