The Wreckage

By Donald Hall b. 1928 Donald Hall
At the edge of the city the pickerel   
vomits and dies. The river
with its white hair staggers to the sea.

My life lay crumpled like a smashed car.

Windows barred, ivy, square stone.   
Lines gather at mouth and at eyes   
like cracks in a membrane.
Eyeballs and tongue spill on the floor   
in a puddle of yolks and whites.

The intact 707
under the clear wave, the sun shining.

The playhouse of my grandfather’s mother   
stands north of the shed: spiders
and the dolls’ teacups of dead women.   
In Ohio the K Mart shrugs;
it knows it is going to die.

A stone, the closed eye of the dirt.

Outside before dawn
houses sail up
like wrecks from the bottom of the sea.   
A door clicks; a light opens.

If the world is a dream,
so is the puffed stomach of Juan,
and the rich in Connecticut are dreamers.

There are bachelors
who live in shacks made of oil cans
and broken doors, who stitch their shirts   
until the cloth disappears under stitches,   
who collect nails in Ball jars.

A trolley car comes out of the elms,
the tracks laid through an acre of wheat stubble,   
slanting downhill. I board it,
and cross the field into the new pine.

Donald Hall, “The Wreckage” from Old and New Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Donald Hall. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Old and New Poems (1990)

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Poet Donald Hall b. 1928

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Donald  Hall


Donald Hall is considered one of the major American poets of his generation. His poetry explores the longing for a more bucolic past and reflects the poet’s abiding reverence for nature. Although Hall gained early success with his first collection, Exiles and Marriages (1955), his more recent poetry is generally regarded as the best of his career. Often compared favorably with such writers as James Dickey, Robert Bly, and James . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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