Lee Woodman: End-stopped (after Donald Hall’s memorial service on June 30, 2018)

  • Lee Woodman sits with Donald Hall in August 2017, the last time she saw him. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 6/30/2019 12:25:07 AM

South Danbury Church was packed. Pallbearers rolled the mahogany casket up the left aisle slowly. Creaky floor boards. Hundreds of years of friends and admirers clothed in black, blacker for the 90-degree heat. Rows of hard wooden benches painted white, stern reminders of New England shoulds: sit straight, pay attention, don’t laugh.

But laugh we did when Pastor Gayle Kinney described their initial meeting. Waving as he left her, baggy-pants-frizzy-bearded-shuffle-footed Don exclaimed, “Don’t let your Playboy subscription lapse!” And sing we did, “Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee,” sounding better than our voices possibly could, as friends remembered the ox-cart man with the work ethic of a farmer. What is the secret of life? Don would ask. Set an objective you can’t possibly reach. Poems were, indeed, a school for feeling – no dead metaphors or too many end-stops!

A final stroke of brilliance – the family brought forth Donald Hall’s own voice as Benediction: a deep-toned recording of his poems “Old Roses” and “Names of Horses.” South Danbury Church, pews groaning, sea of heads nodding. It was over.

He would be buried not far from the roses and horses. A hearse led the way to Proctor Academy Cemetery past Hall’s Eagle Pond Farm. There, in front of the sagging porch and luscious roses, a lone man sat on a folding chair in the driveway, hat tipped against the sun. Perhaps he was asked to guard the home during the service.

Only the cat was inside, the painted bed, the lumpy armchair, the footstool piled with cardboard boxes full of hand-written drafts of essays Don planned to revise and revise and revise. Lots of artwork – Andy Warhol’s “Liz Taylor,” sexy and gorgeous over his armchair. The farmhouse, once his grandfather and grandmother’s, exhaled peacefully. Nothing to steal; Donald Hall had given all his words away.

(Lee Woodman’s essays and poems have been published in “Tiferet Journal,” “Zócalo Public Square,” “Grey Sparrow Press,” “The Ekphrastic Review,” “vox poetica” and “The New Guard Review.” Her letter/poem “Voices in the Void,” published in November 2018 in “The New Guard Review” Vol VII, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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