When their minister,
Alice Ling, brought communion to the house
or the hospital bed,
or when they held hand as Alice prayed,
grace was evident
but not the comfort of mercy or reprieve.
The embodied figure
on the cross still twisted under the sun.
– Donald Hall, “Her Long Illness.” Without.
Grünewald, Matthias, and Niclaus Haguenauer. Isenheim Altarpiece. Colmar, France. Unterlinden Museum, 1516. Oil on wood panel.
when I was seven and eight.
Unable to sleep
or unwilling, I would call
– waiting in the dark
to hear her footsteps –
. . . .
She nursed so well, I loved
being sick. Freud said
a man thrives his whole life
if he received as a child
“his mother’s entire devotion.”
– Donald Hall, “Song for Lucy.” Without
Barnet, Will. Midnight. 1985.
Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped,
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced; he worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
– Donald Hall, “Her Long Illness.” Without
Barnet, Will. Self-Portrait. 1981.