Donald Hall (1928-2018)


I will strike down wooden houses; I will burn aluminum
clapboard skin; I will strike down garages
where crimson Toyotas sleep side by side; I will explode
palaces of gold, silver, and alabaster: the summer
greathouse and its folly together. Where shopping malls
spread plywood and plaster out, and roadhouses
serve steak and potato skins beside Alaska King Crab;
where triangular flags proclaim tribes of identical campers;
where airplanes nose to tail exhale kerosene,
weeds and ashes will drowse in continual twilight.

I reject the old house and the new car; I reject
Tory and Whig together; I reject the argument
that modesty of ambition is sensible because the bigger
they are the harder they fall; I reject Waterford;
I reject the five and dime; I reject Romulus and Remus;
I reject Martha’s Vineyard and the slam dunk contest;
I reject leaded panes; I reject the appointment
made at the tennis net or on the seventeenth green;
I reject the Professional Bowling Tour;
I reject purple bathrooms with purple soap in them.

Men who lie awake worrying about taxes, vomiting
at dawn, whose hands shake as they administer Valium,
skin will peel from the meat of their thighs.
Armies that march all day with elephants past pyramids
and roll pulling missiles past Generals weary of saluting
and past President-Emperors splendid in cloth-of-gold,
rain will dissipate soft rumps of armies. Where square miles
of corn waver above Minnesota plains, where tobacco ripens
in Carolina and apples in New Hampshire, where soybeans
turn Kansas green, where pulp mills stink in Oregon,

dust will blow in the darkness and cactus die
before it flowers. Where skiers wait for chairlifts
wearing money, low raspberries will part rib-bones.
Where the drive-in church raises a chromium cross,
dandelions and milkweed will straggle through blacktop.
I will strike from the ocean with waves afire;
I will strike from the hill with rainclouds of lava;
I will strike from darkened air
with melanoma in the shape of decorative hexagonals.
I will strike down embezzlers and eaters of snails.

I reject Japanese smoked oysters, potted chrysanthemums
allowed to die, Tupperware parties, Ronald McDonald,
Kaposi’s sarcoma, the Taj Mahal, Holsteins wearing
electronic necklaces, the Algonquin, Tunisian aqueducts,
Phi Beta Kappa keys, the Hyatt Embarcadero, carpenters
jogging on the median, and betrayal that engorges
the corrupt heart longing for criminal surrender:
I reject shadows in the corner of the atrium
where Phyllis or Phoebe speaks with Billy or Marc
who says that afternoons are best although not reliable.

Your children will wander looting the shopping malls
for forty years, suffering for your idleness,
until the last dwarf body rots in a parking lot.
I will strike down lobbies and restaurants in motels
carpeted with shaggy petrochemicals
from Maine to Hilton Head, from the Scagit to Tucson.
I will strike down hang gliders, wiry adventurous boys;
their thighbones will snap, their brains
slide from their skulls. I will strike down
families cooking wild boar in New Mexico backyards.

The landscape will clutter with incapable machinery,
acres of vacant airplanes, schoolbuses, and ploughs
with seedlings sprouting through discs and turning brown.
Unlettered dwarves will burrow for warmth and shelter
in the caves of dynamos and Plymouths, dying
of old age at seventeen. Tribes wandering
in the wilderness of their ignorant desolation,
who suffer from your idleness, will burn your illuminated
missals to warm their rickety bodies.
Terrorists assemble plutonium because you are idle

and industrious. The whippoorwill shrivels and the pickerel
chokes under the government of self-love. Vacancy burns
the air so that you strangle without oxygen like the rat
in the biologist’s belljar. The living god sharpens
the scythe of my prophecy to strike down the red
poppies and the blue cornflowers. When priests and policemen
strike my body’s match, Jehovah will flame out;
Jehovah will suck air from the vents of bombshelters.
Therefore let the Buick swell until it explodes;
therefore let anorexia starve and bulimia engorge.

When Elzira leaves the house wearing her tennis dress
and drives her black Porsche to meet Abraham,
quarrels, returns to husband and children, and sobs
asleep, drunk, unable to choose among them,
lawns and carpets will turn into tar together
with lovers, husbands, and children.
Fat will boil in the sacs of children’s clear skin.
I will strike down the nations, astronauts and judges;
I will strike down Babylon, I will strike acrobats,
I will strike algae and the white birches.

Because Professors of Law teach ethics in Esperanto,
let the Colonel become President; because Chief Executive
Officers and Commissars collect down for pillows,
let the injustice of cities burn city and suburb;
let the countryside burn; let the pineforests of Maine
explode like a kitchen match and the Book of Kells
become ash in a microsecond; let oxen and athletes
flash into grease: I return to Appalachian rocks;
I shall eat bread and prophesy through hours or millennia
of Jehovah’s day as the sky reddens above cities.

Then houses will burn, even houses of alabaster;
the sky will disappear like a scroll rolled up
and hidden in a cave from the generation of idleness.
Mountains will erupt and vanish becoming deserts
and the sea wash over the sea’s lost islands
and the earth split like a corpse’s gassy
stomach and the sun turn as black as a widow’s skirt
and the full moon grow red with blood swollen inside it
and stars fall from the sky like wind-blown apples,
while Babylon’s managers burn in the rage of the Lamb.