Russell and Duenes

the poetry of james baker hall (1935-2009)

with 2 comments

With the recent passing of famous cultural celebrities like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring to your attention another great loss. James Baker Hall, Kentucky Poet Laureate, artist and essayist has also died. Hall’s poems have affected me greatly over the years. He writes about youth and transformation. He is honest, eloquent and reflective. I will miss his continued writing greatly. Below are two poems from James Baker Hall.


Freeing The Sparks

I watch from the foot of the bed.
It rises at the end of what we can see

of 9th Street, a fireball in the alley
of tall buildings, exploding
in great pins of light.
I forget to think.
I forget everything
I have thought. Light is

what’s left, alleging
to have forgotten nothing.
The brown walls, the peeling paint,
first one mirror
and then another.
My hand is here

standing on its fingers.
Each day a place stands up within
the light itself, the pulses open—
We call it

here—the brown walls,
the books, the red blanket, the plants

under the window. Green is
many different things.

That First Kite

That first kite was made of newspaper and strung
with fish line. I was lying next to it, alone. Sunlight
in the bright shape of a window, X-ed once
with the shadow of the sash, moved

slowly across the floor toward
me. A way had to be found

to make it work. We were trying. All this
took place in the attic where the cat brought
the birds.
                    My mother was downstairs
or out back in the cornfield
with a gun.
                      I didn’t move. Who knew
where my father was.
Nothing ever worked.
I kept my eyes closed

whenever I thought
I was asleep
or flying. I awoke

when I felt the light touch
my feet, perfect, still

I didn’t move. When it touched
my eyes I opened. The crosshairs
were on my chest, breathing. I saw
my heart. A cold wind rattled
the kite.


Written by Michael Duenes

June 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Poetry, Reflections, Russell

2 Responses

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  1. Aww, no way! He did photography, including “Orphan in the Attic” too didn’t he? That’s so sad. May his memory and talent live on in the hearts of those who followed his work.


    June 29, 2009 at 5:02 am

    • Neala,

      He is the photographer of “Orphan in the Attic.” His art is quite well known, but what always strikes me about his art and writing is that it often brings out innocence in peril. How did you know of his work? Have you seen any of his other photographs?



      June 29, 2009 at 5:33 am

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