Friday, February 7, 2014

Maxine Kumin: 1925-2014

Maxine Kumin, a former professor/poetry workshop leader of mine, died yesterday. Her workshop was the first college poetry workshop I attended. I was young, impatient, inappropriately in love with a man who really wasn't the one for me, fickle, in love with the outdoors and movement of any kind. In short, a pain in the butt. At the time she was already famous, but was also trying to keep Anne Sexton from committing suicide. She had little time to spare for a too-energetic, not poetically developed undergrad student.

Thank you, Maxine, for your graceful and important contribution to American letters.

Maxine Kumin:  1925-2014


by Maxine Kumin

How pleasant the yellow butter
melting on white kernels, the meniscus
of red wine that coats the insides of our goblets

where we sit with sturdy friends as old as we are
after shucking the garden's last Silver Queen
and setting husks and stalks aside for the horses

the last two of our lives, still noble to look upon:
our first foal, now a bossy mare of 28
which calibrates to 84 in people years

and my chestnut gelding, not exactly a youngster 
at 22. Every year, the end of summer
lazy and golden, invites grief and regret:

suddenly it's 1980, winter buffets us, 
winds strike like cruelty out of Dickens. Somehow
we have seven horses for six stalls. One of them,

a big-nosed roan gelding, calm as a president's portrait
lives in the rectangle that leads to the stalls. We call it
the motel lobby. Wise old campaigner, he dunks his

hay in the water bucket to soften it, then visits the others
who hang their heads over their dutch doors. Sometimes 
he sprawls out flat to nap in his commodious quarters.

That spring, in the bustle of grooming
and riding and shoeing, I remember I let him go
to a neighbor I thought was a friend, and the following 

fall she sold him down the river. I meant to
but never did go looking for him, to buy him back
and now my old guilt is flooding this twilit table

my guilt is ghosting the candles that pale us to skeletons
the ones we must all become in an as yet unspecified order. 
Oh Jack, tethered in what rough stall alone

did you remember that one good winter?
- See more at:

No comments:

Post a Comment