Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

          How did we get to be old ladies—
          my grandmother's job—when we 
          were the long-leggèd girls?
	— Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,		
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as 				
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine 
the original manuscript 
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen, 

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi, 
should have crossed the ocean 
in third class on the Cunard White Star,	
the war just over, the Second World War 
 
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over 
a fence line.  How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back				
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .  
Why didn’t I go? It was fated. 

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,	
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.

Credit


From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin. Copyright © 2008 by Maxine Kumin. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Author


Maxine Kumin

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Maxine Kumin received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Up Country: Poems of New England, which received the Pulitzer Prize.

Date Published: 2008-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/looking-back-my-eighty-first-year