Biography of Maxine Kumin
Maxine Kumin Poems
And suppose the darlings get to Mantua, suppose they cheat the crypt, what next? Begin with him, unshaven. Though not, I grant you, a displeasing cockerel, there's egg yolk on his chin.
Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right. The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange was featured as merciful, quick at the bone and the case we had against them was airtight,
Said a lightning bug to a firefly, 'Look at the lightning bugs fly by!' 'Silly dunce!' said the fly. 'What bug ever flew?
In The Park
You have forty-nine days between death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist. Even the smallest soul could swim the English Channel in that time
The Hermit Goes Up Attic
Up attic, Lucas Harrison, God rest his frugal bones, once kept a tidy account by knifecut of some long-gone harvest. The wood was new. The pitch ran down to blunt
The water closing over us and the going down is all.
Into my empty head there come a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom I set out, oily and nude
She was twenty-two. He was fifty-three, a duke, a widower with ten children.
Pantoum, With Swan
Bits of his down under my fingernails a gob of his spit behind one ear and a nasty welt where the nib of his beak bit down as he came. It was our first date.
To Swim, To Believe
The beautiful excess of Jesus on the waters is with me now in the Boles Natatorium. This bud of me exults, giving witness:
Running Away Together
It will be an island on strings well out to sea and austere bobbing as if at anchor
In the Absence of Bliss
Museum of the Diaspora, Tel Aviv The roasting alive of rabbis in the ardor of the Crusades went unremarked in Europe from the Holy Roman Empire to 1918, open without prerequisite when I was an undergraduate. While reciting the Sh'ma in full expectation that their souls would waft up to the bosom of the Almighty the rabbis burned, pious past the humming extremes of pain. And their loved ones with them. Whole communities tortured and set aflame in Christ's name while chanting Hear, O Israel. Why? Why couldn't the rabbis recant, kiss the Cross, pretend? Is God so simple that He can't sort out real from sham? Did He want these fanatic autos-da-fé, admire the eyeballs popping, the corpses shrinking in the fire? We live in an orderly universe of discoverable laws, writes an intelligent alumna in Harvard Magazine. Bliss is belief, agnostics always say a little condescendingly as befits mandarins who function on a higher moral plane. Consider our contemporary Muslim kamikazes hurling their explosives- packed trucks through barriers. Isn't it all the same? They too die cherishing the fond certitude of a better life beyond. We walk away from twenty-two graphic centuries of kill-the-jew and hail, of all things, a Mercedes taxi. The driver is Yemeni, loves rock music and hangs each son's picture—three so far— on tassels from his rearview mirror. I do not tell him that in Yemen Jewish men, like women, were forbidden to ride their donkeys astride, having just seen this humiliation illustrated on the Museum screen. When his parents came to the Promised Land, they entered the belly of an enormous silver bird, not knowing whether they would live or die. No matter. As it was written, the Messiah had drawn nigh. I do not ask, who tied the leaping ram inside the thicket? Who polished, then blighted the apple? Who loosed pigs in the Temple, set tribe against tribe and nailed man in His pocket? But ask myself, what would I die for and reciting what? Not for Yahweh, Allah, Christ, those patriarchal fists in the face. But would I die to save a child? Rescue my lover? Would I run into the fiery barn to release animals, singed and panicked, from their stalls? Bliss is belief, but where's the higher moral plane I roost on? This narrow plank given to splinters. No answers. Only questions.
How It Is
Shall I say how it is in your clothes? A month after your death I wear your blue jacket. The dog at the center of my life recognizes you've come to visit, he's ecstatic. In the left pocket, a hole. In the right, a parking ticket delivered up last August on Bay State Road. In my heart, a scatter like milkweed, a flinging from the pods of the soul. My skin presses your old outline. It is hot and dry inside. I think of the last day of your life, old friend, how I would unwind it, paste it together in a different collage, back from the death car idling in the garage, back up the stairs, your praying hands unlaced, reassembling the bits of bread and tuna fish into a ceremony of sandwich, running the home movie backward to a space we could be easy in, a kitchen place with vodka and ice, our words like living meat. Dear friend, you have excited crowds with your example. They swell like wine bags, straining at your seams. I will be years gathering up our words, fishing out letters, snapshots, stains, leaning my ribs against this durable cloth to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.
The week in August you come home, adult, professional, aloof, we roast and carve the fatted calf —in our case home-grown pig, the chine garlicked and crisped, the applesauce hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine. Nothing is cost-effective here. The peas, the beets, the lettuces hand sown, are raised to stand apart. The electric fence ticks like the slow heart of something we fed and bedded for a year, then killed with kindness's one bullet and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering. In winter we lure the birds with suet, thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat. Darlings, it's all a circle from the ring of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn to the gouged pine table that we lounge around, distressed before any of you was born. Benign and dozy from our gluttonies, the candles down to stubs, defenses down, love leaking out unguarded the way juice dribbles from the fence when grounded by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe, how eloquent, how beautiful you seem! Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow, ballooning to overfill our space, the almost-parents of your parents now. So briefly having you back to measure us is harder than having let you go.
The Hermit Goes Up Attic
Up attic, Lucas Harrison, God rest
his frugal bones, once kept a tidy account
by knifecut of some long-gone harvest.
The wood was new. The pitch ran down to blunt
the year: 1811, the score: 10, he carved
into the center rafter to represent
his loves, beatings, losses, hours, or maybe
the butternuts that taxed his back and starved
the red squirrels higher up each scabbed tree.