All I have to offer
On missing deadlines and family for Thanksgiving
There were two unchecked boxes on my to-do list this week, both having to do with writing assignments—both self-imposed. I erased them. With a swipe of wet paper towel, the pressure to GET EVERYTHING DONE ALL OF THE TIME has disappeared.
I had planned an essay braiding three topics: the Vermont farmhouse where I live, my son’s recent engagement, and my mother’s broken hip—the realization of dreams and the fragility of living. (Mom’s recovering nicely, thank you for asking.)
But I haven’t time for literary prose and editing. My children arrive soon. My sister and her family are on their way. I’ll share, instead, my favorite poem and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday.
BY MAXINE KUMIN
The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
—in our case home-grown pig, the chine
garlicked and crisped, the applesauce
hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine.
Nothing is cost-effective here.
The peas, the beets, the lettuces
hand sown, are raised to stand apart.
The electric fence ticks like the slow heart
of something we fed and bedded for a year,
then killed with kindness’s one bullet
and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering.
In winter we lure the birds with suet,
thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat.
Darlings, it’s all a circle from the ring
of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn
to the gouged pine table that we lounge around,
distressed before any of you was born.
Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
love leaking out unguarded the way
juice dribbles from the fence when grounded
by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!
Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow,
ballooning to overfill our space,
the almost-parents of your parents now.
So briefly having you back to measure us
is harder than having let you go.
Maxine Kumin, “Family Reunion” from Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief (New York: Viking Press, 1982). Copyright © 1982 by Maxine Kumin. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Poetry Foundation