Donald Hall, a former poet laureate of the United States, died last week at the age of 89. He was not only a poet but also a playwright, a memoirist, and an anthologist. He wrote scores of poems and was known for revising each one and revising it again until it finally reached what he saw as perfection.
He wrote poems about ordinary things and events, about the lives of ordinary people. Here's one that he wrote that made me think of my own ordinary life and of the ordinary house that I live in. When asked to describe our house, my husband says it looks lived in; it looks like us.
And it looks "lived in" because of our things, collected over the last forty-plus years together. Collected and cherished.
by Donald Hall
When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial—a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.