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(20 September 1928 - / Hamden / Connecticut)

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To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Read poems about / on: marriage, school, friend, women, sometimes, woman, beautiful, lost

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Comments about this poem (The Man In The Dead Machine by Donald Hall )

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  • Hsiaoshuang Chin (1/29/2012 5:22:00 AM)

    I have to re-read the poem before I appreciate how true it is in my life today at age 60

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Moraes Zogoiby (8/26/2009 8:13:00 PM)

    You people are morons and your thoughts are banal. You have no idea what this poem is about and you lack subtlety. Get real. You read something about death, loss, love, and immediately it's a warning, as if these things in combination could never signify anything else. I'm guessing English isn't your first language.

  • Robert Elder (1/20/2008 4:19:00 PM)

    While this might not read as his best poem, the sentiment is still worth considering. For me at least it is a caution to avoid becoming too enamored of attachments in life. Certainly this is true for material goods. And, at least for me, it is a caution to avoid objectifying relationships. I know I am more at peace when I focus on conduct, and act according to my beliefs (e.g., by choosing to act with compassion when ever and however I can) . Given that I am far from perfect, and thus have much comparative experience, I do know I am happier when I act with compassion toward others rather than behave in an acquisitive manner toward others. In this light I see “Affirmation” as a work of warning even regret.

  • Lamont Palmer (8/14/2006 2:03:00 PM)

    This is a pretty banal and unimaginative poem. It reads like a few paragraphs from some book by Dr. Phil about love. Best thing I like about Donald Hall is him living in that old 19th century farmhouse in NH that his grandfather and mother were born in. Now thats poetic.

  • Anne Marie (8/13/2006 7:00:00 PM)

    Why delicious and fitting to lose everything, you ask? Maybe because only in losing it can you claim you ever had it. Everything and every person is temporary and temporarily having something or knowing someone is the is the best you'll ever get. The alternative is never having it at all. Reminds me of another poem called One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop.

  • Barbara Moore (6/30/2006 10:23:00 AM)

    Why delicious and fitting to lose everything?

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