Friday, January 6, 2012

Today's poem by Maxine Kumin

My Father's Neckties

Last night my color-blind chain-smoking father
who has been dead for fourteen years
stepped up out of a basement tie shop
downtown and did not recognize me.

The number he was wearing was as terrible
as any from my girlhood, a time of
ugly ties and acrimony; six or seven
blue lightning bolts outlined in yellow.

Although this was my home town it was tacky
and unfamiliar, it was Rabat or Gibraltar
Daddy smoking his habitual
square-in-the-mouth cigarette and coughing
ashes down the lightning jags. He was
my age exactly, it was wordless, a window
opening on an interior we both knew
where we had loved each other, keeping it quiet.

Why do I wait years and years to dream this outcome?
My brothers, in whose dreams he must as surely
turn up wearing rep ties or polka dots clumsily
knotted, do not speak of their encounters.

When we die, all four of us, in
whatever sequence, the designs
will fall off like face masks
and the rayon ravel from this hazy version
of a man who wore hard colors recklessly
and hid out in the foreign
bargain basements of his feelings.

by Maxine Kumin
from Selected Poems 1960-1990


  1. Interesting poem!
    I left an answer to your comment on my blog! Have a great weekend!

  2. Maxine is one of my very favorite poets. We share a love of horses and rural farm life. In truth, I met her many years ago at a competitive trail ride in South Woodstock, VT. Our horses were stalled next to one another and we had many lovely conversations. It wasn't until years later that I noticed a book of poetry by Maxine Kumin and realized that they were one and the same. How many Maxine Kumin's are there??

  3. In that hard to explain way that poems sometimes do, this one makes me wonder how I feel. It is poignant, and has the dual effect of making me consider the author's life experience, as well as my own.

    Thank you for sharing. I had not encountered this poem before.

    And isn't it a joyful thing that there are so many new (or new to oneself) poems yet to discover! :)

  4. I love her, and it is delightful to see one of her tough-minded yet sentimental poems here. Thank you!

    Do you know her "Seven Caveats in May"? I just shared it with a friend who really likes bears -- it's a good one.

  5. And I read it, Kay! Thanks.

    Thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave me a note, Mundi. I loved your story!! She wrote an amazing book about her healing after a horse-related accident. Inside the Halo and Beyond.

    Aisling, I think you've put your finger on the gift of good poets. They speak from their own experience while each reader can feel both the writer's and her own emotions. A little miracle.

    Yes! JG it is on the blog. If you go to the Poems tab, you'll see in.


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