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Posted by on Jun 17, 2007 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

Father’s Day: Love of a Father Who Has Passed, by USA Poet Laureate, Donald Hall

Donald Hall is our most recent Poet Laureate of the United States. He has lived on a farm in New Hampshire most of his years. He’ll be 79 now. One of his poetry books, ‘The Painted Bed’ is about the marriage bed, and his life with Jane Kenyon, the poet. Another book, ‘Without,’ is about his loss of Jane, who was 20 years his junior and whom he nursed through leukemia until she died. The book, ‘Without,’ is written in such detail, and such love, it sets on its ear the rank pop notion that men are without feeling and cannot say more than ‘Arg.’ Many can say more. Much more.

When Donald Hall’s father died, he said he wrote immediately about his father’s passing, but that the poem took 17 years to complete. The poem was waiting…… for something. One day as Mr. Hall was walking along on the land, not at all thinking about his father, two phrases came into his mind: ‘White apples… the taste of stone.’ He knew immediately, these words belonged in his father poem, and once placed, he would have said what was in his heart to say about his father’s passing. Here is the poem from the grown son to the father who has passed:


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


– Donald Hall, “White Apples and the Taste of Stone”

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • Very nice.

  • Oh jeez.

    If it’s possible, Hall’s an even worse prose writer than poet. Without is an atrocious book- not an ounce of insight, and just one long whine.

    Yes, it’s sad his wife died relatively young, but the man made a fortune off her death.

    Here’s a better poem on the same theme:

    My Papa’s Waltz
    Theodore Roethke

    The whiskey on your breath
    Could make a small boy dizzy;
    But I hung on like death:
    Such waltzing was not easy.

    We romped until the pans
    Slid from the kitchen shelf;
    My mother’s countenance
    Could not unfrown itself.

    The hand that held my wrist
    Was battered on one knuckle;
    At every step you missed
    My right ear scraped a buckle.

    You beat time on my head
    With a palm caked hard by dirt,
    Then waltzed me off to bed
    Still clinging to your shirt.

  • Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    Cosmoetica: I know you have very refined taste. Had I had T Roethke’s poem at hand, I would have used both. Thank you for sending this powerful poem. I thought of you yesterday when I went through dozens of poems,
    looking for one that might be accessible to our many different kinds of readers who have lost their dads. I thought,
    ‘cosmoetica would probably know many to choose from too.’

  • I have.

  • Jilly Dybka

    Those Winter Sundays
    by Robert Hayden

    Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
    from labor in the weekday weather made
    banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

    I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
    When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
    and slowly I would rise and dress,
    fearing the chronic angers of that house,

    Speaking indifferently to him,
    who had driven out the cold
    and polished my good shoes as well.
    What did I know, what did I know
    of love’s austere and lonely offices?

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