Thanksgiving Poetry 2016, Day 6: “Family Reunion” by Maxine W. Kumin

I’m grateful for socializing over food. So many of my best memories are conversations and gatherings around food. The combinations of lovely people and delicious food are infinite, and I look forward to several more permutations. But beyond the delight and satiation of it, there’s something intimate and bonding about sharing a meal together, especially in a home.

Maxine Kumin captures how a meal seems to melt the divisions between people, specifically family. It’s not a Thanksgiving dinner, but the effect is there. She was a Pulitzer Prize winner and in 1981-82 held the post that would be come Poet Laureate. From New Hampshire, her poetry circled around New England themes throughout her life, and she was often compared to Robert Frost. Also, she broke her neck in an accident with a horse at age 73 and recovered! Kumin passed away in 2014.

Family Reunion

by Maxine W. 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.
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