McNair to Hall: September 20, 1982

Letter from McNair to Hall, September 20, 1982, Page 1, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

[Click image to view]

September 20, 1982

Dear Don,

Are you too deeply occupied to say if my
verse is alive?

I will be sending poems for the fall campaign
on “flat paper”, as you requested, soon. Perhaps
they will include the enclosed verses, in some form.

In case you did not open the package containing
my manuscript and see my note in it, I
ask again the question the note asks: Should
I send a copy of the book to Costanzo at
Carnegie-Mellon, or is it a sure thing he
won’t consider publishing it now?

My visit to Eagle Pond Farm helped! I’m

Will let you know more soon about that dinner–




Ten years later they arrive
on the thruway, pulling their winged
fenders and smiling a lane wide–
big cars, old floats that took a wrong
corner somewhere and lost
the American Dream parade. Around them

the strange, grilleless
cars of their future
hum at their tires–tiny aliens
of a planet out of gas.

To think of their long trip
just beginning–the irrepressible fuel
rising everywhere into their tanks!
Armrests unfolding out of seats,
out of the armrests, ashtrays! Maps
falling open to the new roads

which led them, finally, here
to the right lands of America,
suddenly the antiques of optimism
nobody wants or understands
except the poor. Or dictators

cruising the boulevards of some country
where the poor do not have cars
and run behind until it seems
that they themselves are riding
on soft shocks, under a sun roof
toward the great plenty of the New World.


Once, on the last ice-cutting,
the son broke through the surface
of their solid world,
coming to rest among the folded
legs of horses. Listening for him

after all her tears was perhaps
what drew the mother
into that silence. Long afternoons
she sat with her daughter,
speaking in the sign they invented
together, going deaf to the world.

How, exactly, did they touch
their mouths? What was the thought
of the old man on the porch,
growing so drunk by nightfall
he could not hear
mosquitoes in his ears.

There is so much no one remembers
about the farm where sound,
even the bawling of the unmilked cows,
came to a stop. Even the name

that neighbors must have spoken
passing by in twilight, on their way
to forgetting it forever.

A note from McNair about this letter: The opening is a quotation from Emily Dickinson’s 1864 letter to Thomas Higginson.