In “Out the Window,” an essay in the January 23 New Yorker, Donald Hall reveals that he has let go of writing poetry. This is the quality of prose that remains:
As daylight weakens, snow persists. In the twilight of 4 P.M., the birds have gone, sleeping somewhere somehow. No: a nuthatch lands for a last seed. The cow barn raises its dim shape. It was built in 1865, and I gaze at it every day of the year. A few years ago, when we had an especially snowy winter, I thought I would lose the barn. A yard of whiteness rose on the old shingles, and I could find no one to clear it off. The roof was frail and its angles dangerously steep. Finally friends came up with friends who shovelled it, despite its precariousness, and the following summer I hired a roofer to nail metal over the shingles. Shingle-colored tin disposes of snow by sliding it off. Now I look at the sharp roof of the carriage shed at the barn’s front, where a foot of snow has accumulated. The lower two-thirds has fallen onto drifts below. The snow at the shed’s metal top, irregular as the cliff of a glacier, looks ready to slide down. In the bluing air of the afternoon, it is vanilla icing that tops an enormous cake. A Brobdingnagian hand will scrape it off.
However much I end up reading in this new year, or any year to come, I can hardly imagine I will find a new piece of writing with beauty, patience, wisdom, and strength to equal this one. My god, what a gift Hall still has.
You’ll see at the link above that the essay’s behind a paywall. Forget fixing the car or buying the baby new shoes: Subscribe already!