“How It Is” by Maxine Kumin

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.

Maxine Kumin, “How It Is” from Selected Poems 1960-1990. Copyright © 1997 by Maxine Kumin.

“The Masochist” by Maxine Kumin

The Masochist

My black-eyed lover broke my back,
that hinge I swung on in and out
and never once thought twice about,

expecting a lifetime guarantee.
He snapped that simple hinge for me.
My black-eyed lover broke my back.

All delicate with touch and praise
he one by one undid the screws
that held the pin inside its cup

and when I toppled like a door
–his bitch, his bountiful, his whore–
he did not stay to lift me up.

Beware of black-eyed lovers. Some
who tease to see you all undone,
who taste and take you in the game

will later trample on your spine
as if they never called you mine,
mine, mine.

~ Maxine Kumin