Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Women with hats like the rear ends of pink ducks
applauded you, my poems.
These are the women whose husbands I meet on airplanes,
who close their briefcases and ask, “What are
you in?”
I look in their eyes, I tell them I am in poetry,

and their eyes fill with anxiety, and with little tears.
“Oh, yeah?” they say, developing an interest in clouds.
“My wife, she likes that sort of thing? Hah-hah?
I guess maybe I’d better watch my grammar, huh?”
I leave them in airports, watching their grammar,

and take a limousine to the Women’s Goodness Club
where I drink Harvey’s Bristol Cream with their wives,
and eat chicken salad with capers, with little tomato wedges
and I read them “The Erotic Crocodile,” and “Eating You.”
Ah, when I have concluded the disbursement of sonorities,

crooning, “High on thy thigh I cry, Hi!”—and so forth—
they spank their wide hands, they smile like Jell-O,
and they say, “Hah-hah? My goodness, Mr. Hall,
but you certainly do have an imagination, huh?”
“Thank you, indeed,” I say; “it brings in the bacon.”

But now, my poems, now I have returned to the motel,
returned to
l’eternel retour of the Holiday Inn,
naked, lying on the bed, watching
Godzilla Sucks Mount Fuji,
addressing my poems, feeling superior, and drinking bourbon
from a flask disguised to look like a transistor radio.

Ah, my poems, it is true,
that with the deepest gratitude and most serene pleasure,
and with hints that I am a sexual Thomas Alva Edison,
and not without collecting an exorbitant fee,
I have accepted the approbation of feathers.

And what about you? You, laughing? You, in the bluejeans,
laughing at your mother who wears hats, and at your father
who rides airplanes with a briefcase watching his grammar?
Will you ever be old and dumb, like your creepy parents?
Not you, not you, not you, not you, not you, not you.

— Donald Hall, To a Waterfowl 1

1 Donald Hall, "The Town of Hill," David R. Godine, Boston, 1975, pp. 10–11.

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