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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Little Poetry

I just read "The Domestic Arrangement," a poem by Maxine Kumin, over at Letters from a Hill Farm. It is a lovely poem and sent me to find "The Absent Ones" - a favorite of mine.

The Absent Ones

The two foals sleep back to back
in the sun like one butterfly.
Their mothers, the mares, have weaned them,
have bitten them loose like button thread.

The beavers have forced their kit

out of the stick house; he waddles
like a hairy beetle across the bottom land
in search of other arrangements.

My mother has begun to grow down,

tucking her head like a turtle.
She is pasting everyone's name
on the undersides of her silver tea service.

Our daughters and sons have burst
from the marionette show
leaving a tangle of strings
and gone into the unlit audience.

Alone I water the puffball patch.

I exhort the mushrooms to put up.
Alone I visit the hayfield.
I fork up last summer's horse-apples
to let the seeds back in the furrow.

Someone comes toward me--a shadow.
Two parts of a butterfly flicker

in false sun and knit together.

A thigh brushes my thigh.

The stones are talking in code.

I will braid up the absent ones like onions.
The missing I will wrap like green tomatoes.
I will split seventy logs for winter,
seven times seven times seven.

This is the life I came with.

Maxine Kumin

It is a poem of loss, immediate and impending. Of change. Of memory. Of acceptance. Children grow up and leave. Parents grow old and die. Some things, however, remain the same: we go on living our lives, doing the practical, the every day chores.

Don't you love the lines:

Our daughters and sons have burst

from the marionette show

leaving a tangle of strings
and gone into the unlit audience.

We did; we moved from the parental sphere out into the world, and our children have done or will do exactly the same. And while we may want that independence for them, there remains the physical absence, the loss of their presence. So Kumin wraps her memories in every day activities and, in a way, keeps the absent ones close to her ...and goes on about her life.


  1. This has particular meaning to me right now. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Anonymous - I'm glad the poem spoke to you. It has a special meaning to me right now as well. Had my granddaughter for a visit for nearly a week and when she left, I definitely felt the loss of her presence. Although, I admit, I did need the rest!

  3. I do, I do love this! Jen Clair, did you leave a comment about the poem on my blog? Actually I know you did because I read it, but I can't find it. Was it on the poem entry or somewhere else? I may have missed a few entries in my search. I'm sure I read it when I 'approved' it for publication.

  4. Lovely poem. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Yes, that's a lovely poem and perfectly expresses in words how we keep our lost ones close by. Every time I pick a tomato off the vine I remember the garden they kept; using a certain dish that belonged to Mom. We keep them close and we go on with our lives. It is one of the poignancies of living that we do not appreciate until we ourselves are older.