Notes on the Passing of Donald Hall
By Brian Steffen
The poet died on Route 4 in New Hampshire.
He will rest parallel to his wife, her poetry line on their shared headstone.
Words from ‘92 or ‘93, actually.
Poetry composed when cancer began the swampy crawl into a liver, and the wife thought the
poet would die. (This shortly before Bill Moyers came to visit.)
But in a rally, the poet did not. He lived, and the cars on Route 4 did not know.
Then, after celebration, leukemia came for Jane.
And the raging eyed poet buried her in ‘95.
(I was a boy then, not yet out of 5th grade.)
To all observers, this is devastation.
Nineteen years her senior, the poet once refused to wed her,
Fearing he would make her a widow for so long.
But in the end it was the poet who became
A quarter century of walking, walking, walking
away from a life together.
Jane once wrote a poem called “Otherwise.”
On living, it is really the only poem you need to know.
I hope someday you read it.
May you rewrite it each day pregnant with the ordinary.
The poet, Mr. Donald Hall’s, final book will be published next month.
It is called:
A Carnival of Losses
At work, I scribbled a note for its release on my calendar.
Soon, I will order my copy from Barnes and Noble.
When I endure the drive down Route 481 to claim it,
thankful to be alive,
in love and staying put,
just as Hall and Kenyon quietly celebrated,
I will be grateful.
Someday, I will be old.
I prepare for this observation obliquely, recognizing a future of empty rooms, vacant bedsides,
and bottles with tough caps.
I will not be the last Millennial to die,
But I may be the last of those nurtured on the Oregon Trail.
Or if not me, then you. But I hope it’s me.
At thirty-five, I find growing old to be a tolerable flower in life’s bouquet.
But I know this thought is pecked on cheap HP keys with arrogance, as my legs are strong and
my four sons thunder with growth.
By design, I know of no other world but this one. But the blazing eyed poet’s words prepare me
for stratospheres I have yet to encounter.
And for that, I bleed.
Brian is an English as a New Language teacher and the father of four sons.