Sunday, February 9, 2014

Poetry Sunday: In the Park

American poet Maxine Kumin died last week. She had an illustrious and much-honored career as a poet and essayist. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for Up Country, her fourth volume of verse. She was the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, as the United States poet laureate was then known, from 1981 to 1982; from 1989 to 1994 she was the poet laureate of New Hampshire, where she and her husband lived for many years.

In their obituary for the poet, The New York Times described her poetry as  "spare, deceptively simple lines (that) explored some of the most complex aspects of human existence — birth and death, evanescence and renewal, and the events large and small conjoining them all..." That aspect of her poetry is displayed in her poem "In the Park."

In the Park
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
--you won't know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park.He laid on me not doing anything.I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them.For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels.Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there's a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot.In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park. 

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