Sunday, January 3, 2010

Today's poem - The Things by Donald Hall

The Things
by Donald Hall

When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I’ve cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother’s rocker,
a dead dog’s toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother’s souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.

More Donald Hall at Letters from a Hill Farm:


  1. That is life, isn't it? The accumulation of little things that mean nothing to someone else but so much to us because of what they stand for.

  2. What a wonderful poem. I'm tempted to adapt it to my own surroundings.

  3. Like all great poems, this formed a bridge to my heart.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Sharon Lovejoy writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  4. Sprite, Scriptor, and Sharon, thank you for writing. I found the poem so moving, so real, and finally so very sad.

  5. This is oh so true. I have not heard of this poet. I will have to find more of his work.

  6. It is very real and sad all at the same time...makes me look at the things that I keep in a different light!

  7. Oh! Thank you for posting that, which I'd never read. What a lot of truth in a few short lines.

  8. Thanks for sharing that poem with us Nan!

  9. Lisa, I just added links to this post with other entries about Donald Hall on my blog.

    Staci, call me madam, and Sherri, I'm so glad you liked it.

  10. Thanks for posting about Donald Hall. I really enjoy his work. I caught him on The Diane Rehm Show last week. Also met him at the Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith quite a while back and he signed a copy of "Without" for me.

  11. So appropriate as I was scanning in old family photos that were fading fast. Donald Hall is starting to look a bit like Solzhenitsyn to me. I enjoyed his sad but interesting and revealing writings about his life with Jane Kenyon in last year's reads.

  12. I came back to leave a comment and found the links to the other Donald Hall poems. This has me rummaging my book shelves looking for "String Too Short to be Saved"[which I'm sure I own!] What I found is "Seasons At Eagle Pond." I remember going through the Ancestry census search engines on an idle afternoon and finding most of the people Donald Hall mentioned in his writing. When it warms up I'll have to search the shelves in our storage shed, which I have to use as a "library" and re-read his other books.
    Having helped to sort and pack items at my parents' house after my Dad's death in August, I can relate to the dreariness of odd objects which seem to have outlived their sentiment and usefullness.

  13. Very true...and just a little bit sad, don't you think? Wonderful poem.

  14. Ron, I'm going to try and listen to the DR show interview. Thanks for letting me know. And how lucky for you to see him at the bookstore. I've not visited that one, just the one in Lincoln.

    Susan, he really is old looking for his age. Tom's step-father is years older, and looks much younger. But he goes on. Have you read his memoir, Unpacking the Boxes?

    Morning's Minion, it is such a sad business. In my case, I was so young when my folks died, and was the only child, so it was all up to me - what to keep and what to let go. There are only a couple things I let go that I regret now, so I feel I did pretty well.

    Nancy, terribly sad, I think.

  15. Nan, so moving and sad. Make me think!!! I have downscaled a number of times but still have boxes of cards, letters, my grandfather's cowbell, my great grandmothers sewing basket and on and on. I point them out and tell children and grandchildren what they are....they may have no meaning to them in a few years. But they are meaningful to me.

  16. It really is, Ernestine. It was in the New Yorker recently so I'm thinking it is a new poem. I've got stuff I'm sure won't matter to my kids, but who knows.

  17. This poem really spoke to me, as I always feel like purging all my "junk" at the beginning of a new year. Clothes, unused dishes, coffee table books that never get looked at, knicknacks, etc. I used to save every single card given to me from my husband and children, but the boxes are so full and I never look at them... I think I'll go through the lot and pick out a dozen that mean the most to me. Or maybe two dozen. But do I really need hundreds? :) Thanks for sharing this poem, Nan. I'm going to look at the links you've provided.

  18. Les, you've just described the power of a poem. Of all the things I've read about keeping/throwing away, this says it so beautifully, so truly, so succinctly.


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