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O C T O B E R   2 0 0 0

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OBLIVION

by Maxine Kumin



audioear picture Hear Maxine Kumin read this poem (in RealAudio).

(For help, see a note about the audio.)

Also by Maxine Kumin:
The Nuns of Childhood: Two Views (1992)
Continuum: A Love Poem (1980)
January 25th (1965)
Grace (1961)


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The dozen ways they did it --
off a bridge, the back of a boat,
pills, head in the oven, or
wrapped in her mother's old mink coat
in the garage, a brick on the accelerator,
the Cougar's motor thrumming
while she crossed over.

What they left behind --
the outline of a stalled novel, diaries,
their best poems, the note that ends
now will you believe me,
offspring of various ages, spouses
who cared and weep and yet
admit relief now that it's over.

How they fester, the old details
held to the light like a stained-glass icon
-- the shotgun in the mouth, the string
from toe to trigger; the tongue
a blue plum forced between his lips
when he hanged himself in her closet --
for us it is never over

who raced to the scene, cut the noose,
pulled the bathtub plug on pink water,
broke windows, turned off the gas,
rode in the ambulance, only minutes later
to take the body blow of bad news.
We are trapped in the plot, every one.
Left behind, there is no oblivion.


Maxine Kumin received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1973 and the Ruth Lilly poetry prize last year. Her most recent book is Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery (2000).

All material copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
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