Twilight After Haying
by Jane Kenyon (1947 – 1995)
Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?
The men sprawl near the baler,
too tired to leave the field.
They talk and smoke,
and the tips of their cigarettes
blaze like small roses
in the night air. (It arrived
and settled among them
before they were aware.)
The moon comes
to count the bales,
and the dispossessed–
–sings from the dusty stubble.
These things happen. . . . the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses. . .
The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
Few poets wrote as much as about death as Donald Hall. He made a career of death, he had plenty of experience from which to draw upon, writing very personally about the loss of his wife Jane Kenyon to cancer. Does a lifetime of writing about death prepare you for your own?
Hall passed away last weekend at the age of 89. He was by his own admission pleased by his ability to earn a living as a writer, calling himself a “bandit” for having such good fortune. Hall was awarded nearly every award and recognition a poet could receive and was by all accounts a writer who wrote hard, nearly every day.
If work is not antidote to death, nor a denial of it, death is a powerful stimulus to work. Get done what you can.
by Donald Hall (1928 – 2018)
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.