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Maxine Kumin: Online Poems


GRACE

Hens have their gravel; gravel sticks
The way it should stick, in the craw.
And stone on stone is tooth
For grinding raw.

And grinding raw, I learn from this
To fill my crop the way I should.
I put down pudding stone
And find it good.

I find it good to line my gut
With tidy octagons of grit.
No loophole and no chink
Make vents in it.

And in it vents no slime or sludge;
No losses sluice, no terrors slough.
God, give me appetite
for stone enough.

                                 1961

Copyright 1961 by Maxine Kumin. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; October 1961; Grace; Volume 208, No. 4; page 104. Online Source


WOODCHUCKS

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,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother. She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.
                                                                    1972

From Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief, by Maxine Kumin, published by Penguin Books. Copyright 1972, 1982 by Maxine Kumin. Used with permission. Online Source


CONTINUUM: A LOVE POEM

going for grapes with
ladder and pail in
the first slashing rain
of September    rain
steeping the dust
in a joyous squelch   the sky
standing up like steam
from a kettle of grapes
at the boil    wild fox grapes
wickedly high    tangled in must
of cobweb and bug spit
going for grapes    year
after year    we two with
ladder and pail stained
with the rain of grapes
our private language
                                        1980

Copyright 1980 by Maxine Kumin. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; September 1980; Continuum: A Love Poem; Volume 246, No. 3; page 69. Online Source


THE WORD

We ride up softly to the hidden
oval in the woods, a plateau rimmed
with wavy stands of gray birch and white pine,
my horse thinking his thoughts, happy
in the October dapple, and I thinking
mine-and-his, which is my prerogative,

both of us just in time to see a big doe
loft up over the four-foot fence, her white scut
catching the sun and then releasing it,
soundlessly clapping our reveries shut.
The pine grove shudders as she passes.
The red squirrels thrill, announcing her departure.

Come back! I want to call to her,
we mean you no harm. Come back and show us
who stand pinned in stopped time to the track
how you can go from a standing start
up and over. We on our side, pulses racing,
are synchronized with you racing heart.

I want to tell her, Watch me
mornings when I fill the cylinders
with sunflower seeds, see how the chickadees
and lesser redbreasted nuthatches crowd
onto my arm, permitting me briefly
to stand in for a tree,

and how the vixen in the bottom meadow
I ride across allows me under cover
of horse scent to observe the education
of her kits, how they dive for the burrow
on command, how they re-emerge at another
word she uses, a word I am searching for.
                                                                    1994

Copyright 1994 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.The Atlantic Monthly; March 1994; The Word; Volume 273, No. 3; page 96.  Online Source


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