Archive for April 7th, 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Beard for a Blue Pantry by Donald Hall

(Alice Mattison dreamed that I wrote a poem with this title)

Bluebeard displayed his wives
in a gallery small as a pantry.
My wife Jane has leukemia

and I sit by her painful bed
as petechiae bloom on her skin
and white cells proliferate.

The summer after we married
I grew a black beard, and Jane
wrote a poem on an airplane

flying home from California:
“The First Eight Days of the Beard.”
After a dozen years I shaved

that curly intractable beard
when it turned as white
as King Arthur in the pantry

where Amos the cat birdwatched
from a yellow breadbox—
our furry Attila of mice,

until his eyes glazed over.
In those deliberate days,
Jane made bread so honest,

once it went blue in the pantry
on a hot August weekend.
In her room above the kitchen

she worked at her poems,
and in spring paused to garden,
and in winter to feed goldfinches

blackoil sunflower seed, on days
that started with coffee in bed
and continued with walking

the dog, with loving, with baking,
with answering Alice’s letters,
with mulching roses and washing

abundant hair that is gone now
in her terrible illness.
It is blue in the breadless pantry.


Date: 1995

By: Donald Hall (1928- )

Note: The poem by Jane Kenyon referred to can be found here: