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Poetry readings: Kicking the Leaves

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Poetry readings: The Day I Was Older - The Pond, The Day and The Cup
Donald Hall Poet
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The Pond

 

We lie by the pond on a late August afternoon

as a breeze from low hills in the west stiffens water

and agitates birch leaves yellowing above us.

You set down your book and lift your eyes to white trunks tilting from shore.

A mink scuds through ferns; an acorn tumbles.

Soon we will turn to our daily business.

You do not know that I am watching, taking pleasure

in your breasts that rise and fall as you breathe.

Then I see mourners gathered by an open grave.

 

The Day

 

Last night at suppertime I outlived my father, enduring

the year, month, day, hour and moment

when he lay back on a hospital bed in the guest room

among cylinders of oxygen – mouth open, nostrils and pale

blue lips fixed unquivering. Father of my name,

father of long fingers, I remember your dark hair

and your face almost unwrinkled. Now I have waked

more mornings to frost whitening the grass,

read the newspaper more times, and stood more times,

my hand on a doorknob without opening the door.

 

The Cup

 

From the Studebaker’s backseat, on our Sunday drives,

I watched her earrings sway. Then I walked uphill

beside an old man carrying buckets

under birches on an August day. Striding at noontime,

I looked at wheat and at river cities. In the crib

my daughter sighed opening her eyes. I kissed the cheek

of my father dying. By the pond an acorn fell.

You listening here, you reading these words as I write them,

I offer this cup to you: Though we drink

from this cup every day, we will never drink it dry. 

 

The 14th US Poet Laureate Donald Hall (1928-2018) was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, then earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1951 and a BLitt, from Oxford in 1953. He published many essays and anthologies of both poetry and prose including String too Short to be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Without: Poems, and Ox-Cart Man, a children's book which won the Caldecott Medal. Hall was editor of the magazine Oxford Poetry, literary editor of Isis, editor of New Poems, and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He won many awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Robert Frost Medal. At the end of his first Oxford year, he also won the university's Newdigate Prize, awarded for his poem Exile.

Listeners: Kendel Currier

Kendel Currier started working for Donald Hall in August of 1994 as his correspondence typist. Later she took on his manuscript typing as well, and in October of 1998 moved 100 meters down the road from Donald and became his personal assistant, adding many various new tasks to her work. As well as working for Donald for the last 10 and-a-half years, Donald Hall and Kendel Currier share a set of great (or for Kendel great-great) grandparents, making them distant cousins and part of a similar New Hampshire heritage.

Tags: The Pond, Studebaker, The Day I Was Older, The Pond, The Day, The Cup

Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008