Hall to McNair: September 11, 1980


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11 September 1980

Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

Joey thinks “The People Upstairs” is absolutely perfect,
and will be delighted to send it out, but I see a couple of
things I am not so sure of, so I persuaded him to let me
write you about the poem before he sends it out.

In the first one, I think that “drifting” is a classic
dead metaphor. I’m not crazy about “weightless” either, but
I really dislike “drifting,” which is a distinctly unanchored
unrowboat. I’m not so positive about “ ,” when you
come to that…

In the third part, it is “faint scream” that bothers me,
not the article. It is because screams have been faint since
the beginning of creation. I think everything else is just
fine here. I’m not absolutely positive about the end of the
second part, which is the difficult part. But there’s nothing
wrong with the diction! (I am just not positive that it is
all there or that it is said with as much clarity and force
as need be.) But I feel fairly sure about drifted and faint.

If you feel equally sure, in the other direction, I
will pass the word to Joey.

Love as ever,


Editorial note about this letter: After Don’s small complaints about “The People Upstairs,” McNair sent him this revised draft in his ensuing letter.

The People Upstairs

each night
we hear them

ascending the stairs

deeper and deeper
into the floor

falling while rising
away from themselves

their weightless voices
moving out

of earshot far
into the next world

o feet
forgotten servants

left out
of the conversation
of mind and hands
we hear you

under the desk
we understand

your great patience
and your

mystery moving
beyond the cloud
of ceiling carrying

the body dream

above our heads
the thin scream

of pipes dissolves
the corners of rooms

and feet walk past us
in space

free of the tables
lamps and chairs

which hold us here
dying of definition