Maxine Kumin died recently. We were friends for many years.
Snowshoeing in the Joppa Woods
In Memoriam: MK
Snowshoeing in the Joppa woods
in concave February light,
I feel slight as punctuation,
my bigfoot tracks so shallow
a breath would fill them behind me.
The hemlock are breathless, though,
and thrust their armfuls overhead
as if offering them to the sun.
At the end of this unplowed road
your barn-red farmhouse clutches
three hundred acres of forest
and one small frozen pond where
skinnydipping in hot weather
defies clouds of mosquitoes and flies.
I skimmed over that pond this morning
and flayed it with my sullen gait.
Your reading tour in the South
has left your farm in my keeping.
Caesar, your Dalmatian, follows me
in the hock-deep snow. We’re friends,
your dog and me. Our habits
revolve around eating and walking,
reading and target shooting,
and refusing to answer the phone.
You trust me with your possessions,
but I’ve never met your children,
grown in all directions, and doubt
that your husband recalls my name.
The woods smell sweet as a bakery.
The sizzle of my broad-based stride
topples the silence and comforts
the dog, who wonders where you’ve gone.
Meanwhile in your best beige suit
you’re basting a college audience
in your crisp suburban soprano.
They’ve never seen a woman like you,
whose verse straddles its victims
with a sly aggressive confidence
and tugs at various organs
until the creature laughs or cries.
Caesar slogs along, resigned
to my company. The sun drops
below the crest of the Mink Hills,
the hemlocks droop as if flirting,
and the old Joppa graveyard
thrusts a few illegible slates
into a jeering blackish smile.