Poem with One Fact

By Donald Hall b. 1928 Donald Hall
"At pet stores in Detroit, you can buy   
frozen rats
for seventy-five cents apiece, to feed   
your pet boa constrictor"
back home in Grosse Pointe,
or in Grosse Pointe Park,

while the free nation of rats
in Detroit emerges
from alleys behind pet shops, from cellars   
and junked cars, and gathers
to flow at twilight
like a river the color of pavement,

and crawls over bedrooms and groceries   
and through broken
school windows to eat the crayon   
from drawings of rats—
and no one in Detroit understands   
how rats are delicious in Dearborn.

If only we could communicate, if only   
the boa constrictors of Southfield   
would slither down I-94,
turn north on the Lodge Expressway,   
and head for Eighth Street, to eat   
out for a change. Instead, tomorrow,

a man from Birmingham enters   
a pet shop in Detroit
to buy a frozen German shepherd   
for six dollars and fifty cents   
to feed his pet cheetah,
guarding the compound at home.

Oh, they arrive all day, in their   
locked cars, buying
schoolyards, bridges, buses,   
churches, and Ethnic Festivals;   
they buy a frozen Texaco station
for eighty-four dollars and fifty cents

to feed to an imported London taxi   
in Huntington Woods;
they buy Tiger Stadium,
frozen, to feed to the Little League   
in Grosse Ile. They bring everything   
home, frozen solid

as pig iron, to the six-car garages
of Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods,   
Farmington, Grosse Pointe
Farms, Troy, and Grosse Arbor—
and they ingest
everything, and fall asleep, and lie

coiled in the sun, while the city   
thaws in the stomach and slides
to the small intestine, where enzymes   
break down molecules of protein   
to amino acids, which enter
the cold bloodstream.

Donald Hall, “Poem with One Fact” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Donald Hall b. 1928

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.