“In Memoriam” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight


white apples and the taste of stone
—Donald Hall, “White Apples”

The old master is dead,
his gravestone already marked
with lines from a poem

by his wife, whose peonies
blossomed and toppled outside
while he lay in hospice.

Soon his granddaughter will live
in the ancestral house looking out
at blue Mount Kearsarge.

The curved ribs of old horses
buried in the field will again yield
their crop of goldenrod.

Dark clouds over Eagle Pond
turn white as the taste of stone,
white as white apples.

from Poets Respond


Lynne Knight: “I spent much of Sunday mourning the death of Donald Hall, who taught me much of what I know about poetry when I was his student at the University of Michigan. Much later, we had a correspondence over twenty years that sometimes included the exchange of poems. I’ve been re-reading some of his letters, and I came upon this: ‘I want the poem to be as hard as a piece of sculpture, and as immovable, and as resolute, and as whole. I want every word in it to be absolutely inevitable … but another part of the requirement, by and large, is that it should not seem so.’ Then he quoted Yeats: ‘A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought …’ His letter begins: ‘I love talking about this stuff.’ Donald Hall gave so much to the world of letters that I wanted to mark his death with a small poem that evokes his life and work, borrowing his image in the last two lines (“white apples and the taste of stone”). I don’t know if this poem does evoke him, but among many, many other things, he taught me to be persistent.” (web)

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