originally published January 1996
Listen to Donald Hall introduce these poems by his wife Jane Kenyon, recorded in 1996 (0:32)
Hear Donald Hall read
Jane Kenyon's "Drawing From the Past" (0:57)
Also by Jane Kenyon:
Woman, Why Are You Weeping? (1999)
Man Eating (1994)
Also by Donald Hall:
Distressed Haiku (2000)
From Willow Temple (1996)
The Wedding Couple (1996)
When the Young Husband ... (1993)
Hear Donald Hall read Jane Kenyon's "Surprise" (0:45)
From the archives:
A Conversation with Donald Hall (October 1996)
DRAWING FROM THE PAST
Only Mama and I were at home.
We ate tomato sandwiches
with sweeps of mayonnaise
on indifferent white bread.
Surely it was September,
my older brother at school.
The tomatoes were fragrant
and richly red, perhaps the last
I was alert to the joy of eating
sandwiches alone with Mama, bare
feet braced on the underpinnings
of the abraded kitchen table.
Once, I'd made a mark in the wood
by pressing too hard as I traced
the outline of a horse.
I was no good at drawing--from life,
or from imagination. My brother
was good at it, and I was alert
to that, too.
He suggests pancakes at the local diner,
followed by a walk in search of mayflowers,
while friends convene at the house
bearing casseroles and a cake, their cars
pulled close along the sandy shoulders
of the road, where tender ferns unfurl
in the ditches, and this year's budding leaves
push last year's spectral leaves from the tips
of the twigs of the ash trees. The gathering
itself is not what astounds her, but the casual
accomplishment with which he has lied.
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) was the author of several collections of poetry, including Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996) and Constance (1993). Her husband, the poet Donald Hall, recorded and introduced two of her poems that the Atlantic published posthumously in 1996.