Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19: Honors, Poet of the Week, Donald Hall, "Name of Horses"

 I must apologize for my absence yesterday.  After a long weekend of dance and travel, I succumbed to a bout of exhaustion.  I wasn't feeling well enough to sit down with my laptop and be witty, charming, or profound.  I was happy to simply be upright last night.  However, I have recovered.

I bet most of you thought I had abandoned my tradition of choosing a Poet of the Week.  I haven't.  I simply took a brief hiatus from it.

But now, due to an overwhelming surge of disgruntled disciples, I am happy once again to bestow the title of Poet of the Week.  Donald Hall is the recipient of this great honor.  As you know, I have been reading his book Essays After Eighty and reveling in his good humor and lack of respect for authority.  I just finished one chapter of the book on Hall's feelings about awards and honors.  (Hint:  he doesn't really give a shit.)

In the poem for today, Hall writes of the honorableness of horses.  The hard, back-breaking work done by these animals for humankind.  That's something worthy of immortality in Hall's estimation, I think.

And if it's good enough for Donald Hall, it's good enough for Saint Marty.

Name of Horses

by:  Donald Hall

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon's heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun's muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground - old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

No comments:

Post a Comment