McNair to Hall, June 8, 1984

Letter from McNair to Hall, June 8, 1984, Page 1, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

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June 8, 1984

Dear Don,

I enclose When Paul Flew Away and
The Fat Enter Heaven. If Joey
thinks its OK, I’d like to have
these sent to Robert Wallace, for
his annual anthology, Light Year.
The anthology accepts poems that have
been accepted or printed elsewhere–
The address is:


Many thanks!


P.S. I don’t mean to burden Joey,
only to avoid confusion . If you
want me to send the poems, I’d
be glad to!


It is understood, with the clarity possible only in heaven,
that none have loved food better than these.
Angels gather to admire their small mouths and their arms
rouns as the fenders of Hudson Hornets. In their past
they have been among the world’s most meek,
the farm boy who lived with his mother, the grade-school teacher
who led the flag salute with expression, day after day.
Now their commonplace lives, the guilt about weight, the ridicule
fade and disappear. They come to the table
arrayed with perfect food, shedding their belts and girdles
for the last time. Here, where fat itself is heavenly,
they fill their plates and float upon the sky.

–Wesley McNair

(printed in Poetry)


It was the same as always,
Paul opening the big, black lung
of it with that worried look
while the cats watched
from under the stove,
but when he closed
his eyes and begun to sink
down between the straps
of his bib overalls,
it was like he died. Except
the accordion was still breathing
a waltz between his hands,
except he called back
to us every so often
from wherever he was, Shit.
Which meant everything
he had ever known
in his life up to that
moment, but this song.
Not some sock-drawer
music of getting a tune out
and then rummaging
for the chord to match,
but together, exactly like
he was breathing the thing
himself. No stomping
either, Just Paul twisting
like he was after some deep
itch, only right then
he was starting to lift
out of his chair. Slowly
at first, like flypaper
in a small breeze, then
the whole enormous weight
of him hanging over the sink. God,
he was happy, and I
and the kids was laughing
and happy, when all
at once it come to me,


this is it. Paul is leaving
the old Barcolounger
stuck in second
position, and the TV on top
of the TV, that don’t
work, and all my hand-paintings
of strawberries as if he never
said this would be Strawberry Farm.
Hey! I said out in the yard
because he was already going
right over the roof
of that goat-shed, pumping
that song. What about you
and me? And Paul
just got farther and smaller
until he looked like a kid
unfolding paper dolls over
and over, or like
he was clapping slowly
at himself, and then
like he was opening up the wings
of some wild, black bird
he had made friends with
just before he disappeared
into the sky above the clouds
over all of Wisconsin.

–Wesley McNair

(accepted by Ironwood)

[Text on back of envelope]

Thanks for that news about Tilton School!
I look forward to whatever additional
discoveries you may have!

A note from McNair about this letter: My envelope note refers to Don’s mention by phone that he’s learned of a McNair who was once on the faculty of the Tilton School, in New Hampshire, and a Communist, like my father. He elucidates in his next letter.