The Ship Pounding

By Donald Hall b. 1928 Donald Hall
Each morning I made my way   
among gangways, elevators,   
and nurses’ pods to Jane’s room   
to interrogate the grave helpers   
who tended her through the night   
while the ship’s massive engines   
kept its propellers turning.
Week after week, I sat by her bed   
with black coffee and the Globe.   
The passengers on this voyage   
wore masks or cannulae
or dangled devices that dripped   
chemicals into their wrists.   
I believed that the ship
traveled to a harbor
of breakfast, work, and love.   
I wrote: "When the infusions   
are infused entirely, bone
marrow restored and lymphoblasts   
remitted, I will take my wife,   
bald as Michael Jordan,
back to our dog and day." Today,   
months later at home, these   
words turned up on my desk   
as I listened in case Jane called   
for help, or spoke in delirium,   
ready to make the agitated
drive to Emergency again
for readmission to the huge
vessel that heaves water month   
after month, without leaving   
port, without moving a knot,   
without arrival or destination,   
its great engines pounding.

Donald Hall, “The Ship Pounding” from Without. Copyright © 1998 by Donald Hall. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Without: Poems (1998)

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Poet Donald Hall b. 1928

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Health & Illness, Living

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Health & Illness, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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