In “When The Young Husband,” Donald Hall is talking about marriages and homes destroyed because of betrayal and adultery, “cocktails, an omelet, wine, the revelation of a room key; the elevator rising as the penis elevates; the skin…small children abandoned and inconsolable.” Hall is very descriptive in this poem right from the beginning, “When the young husband picked up his friend’s pretty wife in the taxi one block from her townhouse…” I love the way he writes the first stanza with a lot of details. This first stanza takes the reader into experiencing the poem right away. And the rest of his stanzas also contained a lot of good details, “sleepless in a bare room; whiskey, meth, cocaine; new love, essayed in loneliness with miserable…” (8th stanza). Hall uses the same form in every stanza here…the last line of every stanza is indented.
There are really nice details throughout the poem, “The Porcelain Couple.” For example, “At the last moment I discovered and saved a cut-lass tumbler, stained red at the top, Lucy 1905 scripted on the stain.” From this poem we learned that the speaker’s mother’s name is Lucy who’s in Connecticut, that her house has an attic, storeroom and several other rooms, and the speaker even mentions his wife, Jane. Why “the porcelain couple?” I don’t get it. No stanzas here…everything just flows from one line to another…one detail after another.
In “The Ship Pounding,” is Hall writing about the hospital as if it were a ship? When the speaker mentions “ship,” he’s really talking about the hospital where his wife Jane has been admitted, “ready to make the agitated drive to Emergency again.” In the beginning, the speaker talks about making his way through nurses and “grave helpers who tended her through the night.” This makes me think that Hall is talking about the hospital. There are good details here also, “Week after week, I sat by her bed with black coffee and the Globe.” I find it interesting how he refers to doctors as “passengers on this voyage who wore masks…”
In “Digging,” even though Hall repeats the word, “digging” in the first stanza, it doesn’t sound annoying or redundant. I don’t mind it at all. I wonder why in the second stanza Hall has two dashes, one at the beginning and one at the end, “–you have become as small as a seed–.” Maybe this purpose is for the reader to concentrate or attract attention to that particular line. I like the detail in this poem, “clasped skin.” The fourth stanza is very powerful because it has strong words, “a widening pain in your side, a breach gapped in your tight ribs…” I like how in the last stanza he didn’t say, “green, yellow, white and red.” He wrote, “of green and yellow, white and red,” it makes a big difference…it sounds better…Hall gives this last line a better rhythm.