Wednesday, June 6, 2018

At The End Of The Affair with Maxine Kumin

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
The key to the beginning of the affair.

That it should end in an Albert Pick hotel
with the air conditioner gasping like a carp
and the bathroom tap plucking its one-string harp
and the sourmash bond half gone in the open bottle,

that it should end in this stubborn disarray
of stockings and car keys and suitcases,
all the unfoldings that came forth yesterday
now crammed back to overflow their spaces,

considering the hairsbreadth accident of touch
the nightcap leads to-how it protracts
the burst of colors, the sweetgrass of two tongues,
then turns the lock in Hilton or in Sheraton,
in Marriott or Holiday Inn for such
a man and woman-bearing in mind these facts,

better to break glass, sop with towels, tear
snapshots up, pour whiskey down the drain
than reach and tangle in the same old snare
saying the little lies again.


— Maxine Kumin


Maxine Kumin served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1981–1982. In 1973 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her fourth collection of poetry, Up Country. At The End Of The Affair also appeared in the 1973 anthology Contemporary Poetry in America, edited by Miller Williams.

Kumin is believed to be the last person to have seen her fellow poet Anne Sexton alive, as the two of them had had lunch the day of Sexton's suicide in 1974.