Maggie Hall
Maggie works as an accountant at a Williston concrete firm. When she’s not counting beans, writing or practicing Zen Buddhism, she’s mending her house and raising a young son. She and her husband live in Richmond.
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The Big View
By Maggie Hall

Anonymous state official –
Yes, you, the one who is now long dead -
– Ashes scattered on some site you loved -
Or maybe now a buried skeleton with long-Rapunzel hair filling your wooden coffin.
Or maybe even still alive -  an old, old man - age 100 or older
– no teeth, cataract-covered eyes –
Sitting in a wheelchair in a nursing home watching TV
- white noise for what is left of your life.

I am thinking about you as I drive in my car.
Thinking about you as I scan the horizon through my windshield/side windows and take in ‘The Big View’: the kid playing on the lawn close to the road, the blood and guts squirrel body smeared on tar -  the red brake lights on the car ahead of me. 
The truck on the side road blinking left and looking to pull out – the driver looks impatient. 

Possible perils everywhere on the road. 
But when I’m doing the ‘The Big View’ all is well –
I am the captain of the ship in the vast ocean of possibilities.

The Big View: the lesson you gave my dad 60 years ago when he ran a stop sign and failed his first driver’s license test.

The Big View: riding in the back seat of the family car we’d hear your lesson being given -  my dad’s hands gesturing across the landscape revealed from the driver’s seat of a car - always emphasizing ‘The Big View’.

State official -
Wherever you are – dead or alive –
Maybe you were an asshole who beat your wife. Maybe you never paid your taxes.
Maybe you loved watching the Wheel of Fortune TV show. Maybe you believed in God.
Maybe not.

All the while ‘The Big View’ was being paid forward through the teenager-young man- middle age man – old man.  Then through his wife and daughters, their children and their children. 

Just think of all the accidents averted. The lives of cats spared.
The countless lives of humans spared suffering -  
As your Big View practitioners maneuver their cars and heed to your words.
An ancient oral tradition being played out.
Generation after generation teaching The Big View
Until after awhile nobody remembers the source.

Anonymous state official – dead or old –
I just want you to know -
Your life did make a difference.

6/1/07

A story about a fish, part I
By Maggie Hall

The fish just wanted to swim in the ocean.

Instead it was caught, disemboweled, beheaded
Crammed into
a little metal can-box with a couple of other fish -
Sealed with a key and put on a shelf.

One day the can was opened.
It was Sunday afternoon, sports playing loudly on the big screen TV.

The fish didn't want to be skewered by the big fork and laid on a
Saltine.
He didn't want to be gulped and devoured by a tobacco-stained and
smelling, laughing/yelling mouth.
He didn't want to be washed down with a Bud Light.

He didn't want to be in an asshole's literal defecation.

He didn't want to.

He was just a little fish minding his own business swimming in the sea - doing his little fish things.

The ocean, the boat, the fishnet, the sardine factory - they all had
another idea.

3.23.07

 


the battle rolls yellow down my road
illustration: "the battle rolls yellow down my road," copyright 2007 c. vielmetti daniloff

The New Coat
By Maggie Hall

We rode the same bus to school.
You lived in Brownsville – the ‘bad’ section of town –
Brownsville where all the inbred Browns lived –
All the ignorant, dirty Browns who kept all their dead vehicles
In their back yard and front lawns.
Piles of debris/bags of trash could be anywhere.
Tall grass growing up around a porch.
A trailer that looked abandoned – but really someone’s ‘home’.
On Sundays after church we’d drive through Brownsville but we never stopped.
My mom said that there had been a place like that where she’d grown up.
It had been ‘Harveytown’ and it was where all the Harveys lived.
You could get lice if you hung out with the Harveys.
Brownsville is where you lived -
Where fate had put a shy seven year old girl in 1973.

The bus picked you up in front of the house you lived in
– the first day back to school after winter break.
I’d never seen you before – you were new.
I remember you wore a brand new blue coat
 – a beautiful blue coat with snowflake decorations on it.
And the coat had a wonderful faux fur white-trimmed hood.
You sat in the back of the bus and I sat in the front.
It was a rainy day and it was dark outside with the rain coming down.
The bus lurched and lumbered along our dirt road -
A beast staggering and swaying with its load and job.
It was hot and the windows were steamed.

You threw up on that bus on that first day of school.
I don’t know if it was nerves or what.
But you threw up on that brand new coat.
The bus reeked of your puke. 
Rancid burning in our nostrils - we smelled it all the way to school.
Everyone on the bus talked about it.

You stayed through that first day of school.
You were tall and had long blond hair – you were pretty.
You sat in the back of the classroom and I sat in the front.
Somehow you got through that day.
And you showed up the next day.

And the thing that I remember is that coat.
That brand new coat.
The brand new coat that was puked on - 
That coat that somehow never got washed.

Day after day you’d get on the bus in that blue coat.
And day after day that blue coat stank of stale vomit.
Day after day, you wore it.
With the stink still on it.
You wore it. You wore it. You wore it.

2/27/07


The Revenge of the Cow
By Maggie Hall

 
Oh you bovine –
yes, you – the one whose skin
was used for the rawhide tie on my slipper -  
The slipper whose tie keeps coming undone
And flapping and slapping on the floor.
My cat pouncing and leaping on your remains – biting after my trail.
 
Yes, you, bovine –
the one whose same rawhide tie, gets mysteriously caught inside my slipper
When I slip my foot inside.
Every step a burden,
Your skin cells grate and rub on the soft insole of my foot.
 
I’m onto you, bovine.
You and your great revenge for what the humans have done to you and your kind.
 
Rawhide, your hide -
Makes my hide raw.
 
2.22.07

 

The Hand Basket
by Maggie Hall

I always liked Mrs. Allistair -  
She was one of our playground monitors.
She stood solitaire in one section or another of the yard
In dusty-sand weather and cold-snow weather.
She was the mother of one of my classmates –
a girl with who had big eyes and teeth with a gap in the front.
Then one day I overheard that Mrs. Allistair had said
"Anyone who isn’t a Catholic is going to hell in a hand basket."
After this, I always wondered about this small-built woman
This smiling woman with a pleasant voice and glasses.
And I guessed this must mean that she was Catholic.
And I wondered what that was.
And I also wondered about that hand basket:
A domestic journey to the underworld.
A homebaked-corn-muffins-with-blueberries-
wrapped-in-a-red-and-white-checkered-cloth-
hand-basket-journey to brimstone, fire and demons.
Maybe all those thousands of meals being chosen and
prepared in her kitchen by her hands caused such a comment.
Maybe if she’d been a postal worker it would have been that
Anyone who isn’t Catholic is going to hell in a mail bin.
Or maybe if she’d been a construction worker it would have been
Anyone who isn’t a Catholic is going to hell in a bucket loader.

Hell.
The final destination for all non-Catholics.
The final destination for me.
That hand basket always sounded really fast to me.
I’m not sure why it sounded fast
Because the truth is most hand baskets are on some top shelf in some cupboard.
Way up high and waiting for an occasion
- waiting for an occasion upon which to deliver something special.

5.11.06


School Bus Driver Hands: I
By Maggie Hall

Loretta had no teeth and no false teeth. And when she yelled, you’d see a mouthful of gums and her words would slur with a slight "gum accent." But nobody ever made fun of her gums. She’d hear something happening and she’d look up into the rectangular mirror above her. Her snake eyes would slit and get fierce. Then she’d start yellin’. And it was a kind of yellin’ that made all activities stop immediately. And the quiet bus would keep rumbling down the dirt road – dust billowing out behind. And I don’t remember if she ever used that word "brat" with us but she definitely thought that word of us. She wore red lipstick that bled and long frizzy hair dyed red with dark-gray roots. She was very thin and had long fingers with large knuckles. And she had very long bright red fingernails and liked to wear big rings with flashy jewels. The bus was a stick shift and when we went up the steep hill to home, she’d wrap those fingers with the long red fingernails around the gear shift knob and she’d strongly downshift and downshift the bus again. She never broke a nail.

School Bus Driver Hands: II
By Maggie Hall

Alan was quiet. He had greased-down black hair and a receding hairline. He combed long strands of his black hair over his balding head to try to cover it up. And when there was something happening in the back of the bus, he’d look up and sometimes he’d say something, and sometimes he’d just look away. When he said something it was with a slightly raised voice – the disturbance in the back would momentarily stop and then you’d hear it start up again. The bus was loud when Alan drove the bus. He drove as if he didn’t hear the noise. For all I know maybe he didn’t. He drove straight ahead – on and on – eyes on the road. He was a regular sized man. He wore plaid shirts. And at the knuckles he was missing three fingers on his right hand. When we went up the steep hill to home, he’d downshift and downshift again. He’d use his thumb, index finger and palm of his hand as the strength to force the gearshift down. The other fingers - gone – gaped into space. And those missing fingers looked harsh and mean. He never seemed bothered – it was like he’d forgotten. But I never forgot them for him.

Rat Poison
By Maggie Hall

There are lots of ways that you can kill a bothersome dog.
One way is soak a dry sponge with gravy and let the dog eat it…
then the sponge expands inside their body and causes fatal internal organ damage.
Or just put the dog outside when the temperature is 20 below zero.
And another way is to get the dog to eat rat poison…
put the poison in some ground up meat and give it to them.

Stories about dogs being killed get people talking.
My coworkers and I discussed these ways of killing a dog this morning.

"That’s bullshit," spat one of my coworkers directing his ire to the faceless humans doing these acts.

"A dog will eat anything." Another said emphatically and twice, like it was a truth that was right up there with the Golden Rule. 

"That’s awful." I say this one: a classic non-descript thing to say that is used so much that it has been rendered useless.

Dexter the white miniature poodle is dead –
Found in his crate where he vomited up blood violently until he died.  
He died in a stranger’s home. 
A roommate of a sister-in-law took him in over the New Year’s weekend.
The roommate had other roommates –
Nobody knows what happened.
This is a dog murder mystery.

We talked about Dexter this morning.
The vet thinks it was rat poison as the autopsy
showed bleeding inside and outside of the body.

What did the vet find in the stomach?
Is the vomit being checked?
Is there any raw hamburger in that refrigerator?
Is there any De-Con in the house?

A rat dog murdered with rat poison.
Some deliberate human hands mixing the De-Con
into some raw hamburger and feeding it to little Dexter
to get him to shut the f—k up.
Poor trusting Dexter – he ate his last supper probably with gratitude.
Gratitude for the meat, gratitude for the human hand finally coming to visit him
There he was in his crate in the strange living room where the TV was on all night.
He must have had gratitude for those feet walking across the room towards him –
gratitude for the release from his fear and loneliness -
And gratitude for the release from wondering- what is this life here all about?
But, no, that is a human question.
Dexter was just glad for the hand that fed him.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
A dog will eat anything.

Distortion
by Maggie Hall

I am the phone ringing,
the voice next to you when you
are in the middle of a book.

I am the one who pays the wrong
change in the long checkout line.
I’m the one who cuts you off in traffic
and the one who tracks mud across your carpet.

I am the bill in your mailbox and
the dark parking lot at night.

I am the one who wakes you up at 2:00 a.m.,
who weeps and begs for more and says you are not enough.

I’m old, blind, deaf – I stumble along.
I’m the empty boat, the open hand,
the bird song in the air.

1.27.99


The Clown
by Maggie Hall

Tonight my dad became a clown.
And I don’t mean this in the poetry-metaphoric sense
- I mean this in the real sense
Where he sat down at the table with a big stand-up mirror in front of him –
He painted his entire face with white cake paint
and then my sister, my mom and my niece painted on his "eyebrows," "mouth,"
"eyelashes" and put designs on his cheeks and forehead.

He told us that the powder is the most important thing –
That it keeps the makeup on. 
Then he carefully unfolded the special cloth powder sack -
the sack that he’d gotten at clown school (yes, there is such a place)
And we all watched with a transfixed fascination as he powdered his whole face…
Puff, puff, puff billowing into the air around him –
My nephew said, "Grandpa, you are smokin."
Then he put on a Carol-Channing-style shiny blue wig…
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend –
and settled it on top of his receding hairline.
He moved and adjusted it until it was straight.
The blue swished back and forth.

Family members walked in - and out - of the room.
Some stayed and watched the entire event.
One filmed it and another took photos.

Tonight is SuperBowl night.  
But nobody cared about or mentioned this at our family gathering –
The gathering for my dad’s birthday -   
The gathering where we all watched my dad become a clown.

My mom said that he needed to work on his mouth… that he needed a happy mouth.
"You don’t want to scare kids."

My dad is 73 and tonight he embraced his "clown self" and put on his big orange shirt, 
His rainbow suspenders, his multi-colored long socks and his red nose.

And when he turned his head in profile, I saw where the paint ended and the jowled neck began.
And one of the suspenders in the back had slipped off and dangled on his back.

When we were ready to leave, I told my son, "Give Grandpa a kiss good-bye."
And there was a pause – a watching - where we all wondered what the boy would do…

He reached out and kissed the white cheek …
Just like how he would have kissed that grandfather-cheek any old time.
He kissed it as if it wasn’t a clown cheek after all.
And we all laughed relief -
Relief that the little kid wasn’t scared of the clown.

2.5.06

Lilacs
by Maggie Hall

Ah, the cool petals of your face
next to my face.
Lilacs, lilacs.

A Word
by Maggie Hall

I use it, drink from it and
set it on the table, I chip
it, wash it and put it in the cupboard.
I lose it, break it and throw it away.

But the cup has it’s own secret life.

The cup is.

1.27.99

In Further Consideration of the Value of a Tonka
By Maggie Hall

Today I buy a Tonka for three bucks from an angry couple
at a yard sale.
I turn away and my eyes see a boy about 10 years old –
striped shirt, a baseball hat shadows his face. 
My eyes see the boy but I do not register him.

I register him now.   

I think of you now, boy,
and I wonder how you would have answered
the question, "How much?" 
I wonder about you and your sandbox –
how was it with you and this Tonka
who lived and died a thousand lives
with the sand during long summer days. 
Small hands dragging the Tonka into the box. 
The Tonka digging and moving sand from place to place
as roads, highways, mountains and valleys are built and destroyed in an afternoon. 
The sandbox refuge – cool sand in between toes
and on clothes. 
Digging, moving, smoothing the sand. 
The Tonka tire tracks leaving imprints on the surface. 
Tonka being banged and thrown. 
Tonka the ultimate truck. 
Tonka the one who makes the sandbox right - and downright - all-American. 
The can’t-have-sandbox-without-a-Tonka Tonka. 
And inside, the man and woman in conflict – again
- over the job not done, the bill not paid. 
Inside that – and outside Tonka, sand, hot sun
and a slight summer breeze. 
How much would the boy have said? 
How much?

5.15.06


The Lucky Coin
By Maggie Hall

People talking about war in the office today:
Do you know what the life expectancy was
for a gun runner in Vietnam?
 
You’d never know he was a bad ass.
His personality is very gentle – He never talks about it. 
We figure he must have killed 300-400.

People nodding like they’d been there:
My friend was in Iraq. 
His bunkmate was killed right next to him.

People talking and nodding and talking some more:
My father was in World War II. He was shot in the chest.
He had a silver dollar in his pocket that the bullet hit.
He never talked about it.
He gave that silver dollar to my brother
when he went to Vietnam. 

He lost it there.

That silver dollar – that good luck talisman -
Lost somewhere in the jungle. 
Lost in thick weeds and bog –
Lost in a faraway land…
Faraway from where the silver was originally mined.
Faraway from where the silver was melted
and forged into a coin.
Faraway from the money depository that sent it out into circulation.
Faraway from the military payroll that paid the soldier
the silver dollar for his work.
Faraway from where a bullet was shot
and missed a man’s heart.

A coin shot and saved.

Then lost in a distant place where lucky coins don’t talk a romance language based in Latin.
Lost somewhere where lucky coins don’t talk romance.
Lost someplace where lucky coins don’t talk about war and killing.
Lost someplace where lucky coins don’t talk.
Lost someplace where lucky coins go to rest and to be quiet with all they’ve seen and done.

At the Scene of the Accident
By Maggie Hall

For William Carlos Williams

I see your prescription pad.
It is in your breast pocket.
And you don’t mean to be slipping into the supply closet,
Pulling it out and scribbling furiously the poem you’ve just thought of.

In fact, you aren’t too sure it is poetry you are writing.

It’s more of a follow-up on a hint of something you saw
Out of the corner of your eye –
The eye that had the scope up to it when you looked
Into the little red-haired boy’s ear and saw it was infected.

It isn’t something that you meant to be doing –
Your hand writing what needs to be said.
Your hand picking up the swab and holding the tongue down
And gagging the patient to check for strep.

To write down that poem was like a breathing –
And your cold stethoscope listened to the deep inhale and deep exhale
of the sunken chest on the old man sitting on the paper-sheeted metal table.

"Come on in," the nurse said to your next patient sitting in the sunny waiting room.
Meanwhile, the words had poured out of you.

"Take one of these three times a day" and you scribble the medicine name down,
rip off the little sheet and hand it to the grateful hands
in front of you.

Any deceiver will tell you
It is always best to hide in the open.
No one will suspect –
Just write on that pad and put it in your pocket.
Walk right up to them and talk.
No one will suspect –
The life and death imperative of what just took place
in the supply closet.
No one would understand -
Arriving at the scene of the accident – you had no choice –
It was if you’d taken an oath before Apollo, all the gods and goddesses,
How immediately you began to resuscitate the life within you onto paper.

Walk right up to them and look them in the eyes.
They’ll never know about that little pad in your white lab coat pocket.

Letters to the Dead
by Maggie Hall

I.  
To Margaret Rosemarie,
The wife-mother
Before my own mother,
I say thank you.

Your death –
An end to one family.

And my birth
A mere-chance lotus
Emerging from the tears of muddy water.
2.3.02

II.
Great, great grandfather Hall
To you who hit your horse’s nose with a pitch fork
& who bullied your wife to tears over trivial matters.
Your rage has filtered down through the generations in stories
Right down here –
To me.

And I see your dark furrowed brow which has no shame –
even for a public photograph.

And I wonder what in life betrayed you so…
And I wonder what you were like when you were innocent –
A boy.

2.3.02

III.
Christie Ann Gillis
Married John MacIver.
Great, great grandmother –
I love you.

I love your full smile stretched wide across your face,
Bunched up cherub cheeks & crinkly, direct eyes.

I love you in your chair, legs apart brashly
Under your long pale blue skirt of the times.
I love your arms crossed matter-of -factly
Across your bosom.

And I love your choice of a man.
There he is next to you in the other chair.
Bald, small-built, kindly eyes and a gigantic white mustachio.

Equals.

Great, great grandmother,
Christie Ann,
and her love, John.
Tinted photograph, outside, New Scotland.
Hills, evergreens, blues and greens.
Great, great grandmother –
I love you.

2.4.02

IV.
Injun Joe,
Old Ancestor,
I’ve heard your story –
You know the one –
Your wagon stolen by the white man
And how you got it back.
And when they asked you, you said, “The Devil got him.”

And I’ve got to say I like your spunk.
And I like that you got your wagon back.

But I wonder about that Devil.

And I wonder what happened when you found that white man with your wagon.
In the woods, on a dirt road or in a big, wide open field.

Injun Joe
Old Ancestor –
Perhaps some stories are best left as mysteries –
Legends of a few, stark words.

2.7.02

V.
Great Grammy Kingsbury,
Grammy to my mother,
Curly white hair, smile, dress of the 40s, spectacle eyes -
I just want to say thank you.

Thank you for the soft, homemade cookie – every time.
Thank you for the loving words and manner.

And thank you for the gentle kindness,
Your good attention, and for the infinite
naturalness of your grandmother-ways.

Great Grammy Kingsbury
Bodhisattva of Twelve Grandchildred
- and one of them my mom –

I bow to you with deep gratitude and respect.

2.7.02

VI.
Grandmother
- weatherguide up on the hill

You gave it your all and wrang your life out dry.

And I like to think of you as a faded blue blouse
hanging on the clothesline near the back shed.

Your fast fingers deftly moving the clothes on and off the line year after year. 
And the wicker basket lies near your feet on the warm summer grass.

And I like to think of you moving on the line and billowing out -
filled with the vast wind coming up over the hill.

I like to think of you free and endless in the
bright sunshine and clear blue sky.

11.27.02

VII.
Grandpa Hall, you told
us to forget our sheet –
the one covered with your shit –
the one you threw away in
the trash,

We see your ten dollar bill
on the bed and we wonder
why you never wanted us
to know who you really were.

6.2.99

all material copyright maggie hall© 2007