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Best Famous Maxine Kumin Poems

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by Maxine Kumin | |

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.


by Maxine Kumin | |

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.
1812 ran better.
If it was bushels he risked, he would have set his sons to rake them ankle deep for wintering over, for wrinkling off their husks while downstairs he lulled his jo to sleep.
By 1816, whatever the crop goes sour.
Three tallies cut by the knife are all in a powder of dead flies and wood dust pale as flour.
Death, if it came then, has since gone dry and small.
But the hermit makes this up.
Nothing is known under this rooftree keel veed in with chestnut ribs.
Up attic he always hears the ghosts of Lucas Harrison's great trees complain chafing against their mortised pegs, a woman in childbirth pitching from side to side until the wet head crowns between her legs again, and again she will bear her man astride and out of the brawl of sons he will drive like oxen tight at the block and tackle, whipped to the trace, come up these burly masts, these crossties broken from their growing and buttoned into place.
Whatever it was is now a litter of shells.
Even at noon the attic vault is dim.
The hermit carves his own name in the sill that someone after will take stock of him.


by Maxine Kumin | |

Purgatory

 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.
His seedy robe's aflap, he's got the rheum.
Poor dear, the cooking lard has smoked her eye.
Another Montague is in the womb although the first babe's bottom's not yet dry.
She scrolls a weekly letter to her Nurse who dares to send a smock through Balthasar, and once a month, his father posts a purse.
News from Verona? Always news of war.
Such sour years it takes to right this wrong! The fifth act runs unconscionably long.


by Maxine Kumin | |

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 or climb, like a ten-month-old child, every step of the Washington Monument to travel across, up, down, over or through --you won't know till you get there which to do.
He laid on me for a few seconds said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell about his skirmish with a grizzly bear in Glacier Park.
He laid on me not doing anything.
I could feel his heart beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world confuses them.
For Roscoe Black you might say all forty-nine days flew by.
I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah, Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels.
Certain animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God has a nasty temper when provoked, but if there's a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire, and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down on atheist and zealot.
In the pitch-dark each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.


by Carolyn Kizer | |

Parents Pantoum

 for Maxine Kumin

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses More ladylike than we have ever been? But they moan about their aging more than we do, In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.
They moan about their aging more than we do, A somber group--why don't they brighten up? Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity The beg us to be dignified like them As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention Then we won't try to be dignified like them Nor they to be so gently patronizing.
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars? Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish? Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden, So now we pout like children.
Second-childish? Quaint fragments of forgotten history? Our daughters stroll together in the garden, Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore, Pausing to toss us morsels of their history, Not questions to which only we know answers.
Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore, We'd rather excavate old memories, Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories? Because they hate to excavate old memories They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors, We offspring of our enormous children.