cover image The One Day

The One Day

Donald Hall. Mariner Books, $14 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-816-3

In this three-part poem, composed of male and female narrative, as well as classic textsprophecy, pastoral, history and ecloguethe concept of middle age is explored with fresh insight and expressed in brilliant turns of phrase. Though at times esoteric because of its form and the intricacy and spontaneity of Hall's thought processes, the poem maintains a remarkable clarity and elegance of language as vivid, concrete details are interspersed with a stream of consciousness. The noted Hall uses three chilling metaphors to make sense of the conflicts inspired by human fallibility. He compares the universe to a bed: ``The bed is a world of pain and the repeated deaths / of preparation for death. The awake nightmare / comforts itself by painting the mourner's portrait: / As I imagine myself on grief's rack at graveside / I picture and pity myself. When pathology supplies / the jargon of reassurance, I have buried your body / a thousand times. Gradually we recover pulse / to return to the bed's world and the third thing.'' He likens living one's life to building a house, and one day in a person's existence to an entire life; not impervious to psychic pain, Hall remains optimistic: ``We are one cell perpetually / dying and being born, led by a single day that presides / over our passage through the thirty thousand days / from highchair past work and love to suffering death. / We plant; we store the seedcorn. Our sons and daughters / topdress old trees. Two chimneys require: / Work, love, build a house, and die. But build a house.'' (September)