Tubes

Donald Hall - 1928-2018
           1
"Up, down, good, bad," said
the man with the tubes
up his nose, " there's lots
of variety…
However, notions
of balance between
extremes of fortune
are stupid—or at
best unobservant."
He watched as the nurse
fed pellets into
the green nozzle that
stuck from his side. "Mm,"
said the man. " Good. Yum.
(Next time more basil…)
When a long-desired
baby is born, what
joy! More happiness
than we find in sex,
more than we take in
success, revenge, or
wealth. But should the same
infant die, would you
measure the horror
on the same rule? Grief
weighs down the seesaw;
joy cannot budge it."

           2
"When I was nineteen,
I told a thirty-
year-old man what a
fool I had been when
I was seventeen.
'We were always,' he
said glancing down, 'a
fool two years ago.'"

           3
The man with the tubes
up his nostrils spoke
carefully: "I don't
regret what I did,
but that I claimed I
did the opposite.
If I was faithless
or treacherous and
cowardly, I had
my reasons—but I
regret that I called
myself loyal, brave,
and honorable."

           4
"Of all illusions,"
said the man with the 
tubes up his nostrils,
IVs, catheter,
and feeding nozzle,
"the silliest one
was hardest to lose.
For years I supposed
that after climbing
exhaustedly up
with pitons and ropes,
I would arrive at
last on the plateau
of walking-level-
forever-among-
moss-with-red-blossoms.
But of course, of course:
A continual
climbing is the one
form of arrival
we ever come to—
unless we suppose
that the wished-for height
and house of desire
is tubes up the nose."

More by Donald Hall

Affirmation

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.

Gold

Pale gold of the walls, gold
of the centers of daisies, yellow roses
pressing from a clear bowl. All day
we lay on the bed, my hand
stroking the deep
gold of your thighs and your back.
We slept and woke
entering the golden room together,
lay down in it breathing 
quickly, then
slowly again,
caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily
touching my hair now.

We made in those days
tiny identical rooms inside our bodies
which the men who uncover our graves 
will find in a thousand years,
shining and whole.

White Apples

when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes