The Poetry Mentor – June 6th 2008


Read a Friend’s Heart

June 6th, 2008

Thomas Merton said that we live in a world that is utterly transparent. Divinity is visible and shimmering in everything, in every living being and in every moment. This is not a metaphor or a symbol, he said. It’s absolute truth.

The Divine Feminine is also everywhere present within that ever-present divinity, and goddesses are truly walking among us. Today I invite you to celebrate the birthday of one of the most remarkable women I’ve had the privilege of knowing, the poet Maxine Kumin.

Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1925, she lives with her husband of 59 years on a farm in central New Hampshire among horses, gardens, sheep, dogs, cats, and sugar maples. She’s the Pulitzer Prize winning author of 15 books of poems, the inspiring memoir, Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery(written after she suffered a near-fatal carriage-driving accident in 1998), four novels, three essay collections, a short story volume, and an animal rights murder mystery, Quit Monks Or Die!

She has also been a lifelong generous mentor and friend to countless seekers, students, and writers. To visit with her, take a look at her website,

Here is a poem by Maxine Kumin.


Every November we buy from the logger

a cord of trash wood, the green tops of weedy poplar

for the horses to gnaw on all winter, studiously stripping

the bark in long, juicy curls, thereby sparing

our fence boards from the deep curves

seen elsewhere on poor-mouth farms.

And then it is spring.

Dr. Green arrives

rich with dandelions, bromegrass, and clover.

The six-foot spindles of now-naked popples clutter

the paddock, the lawn, the roadside. You insist

they must be gathered and stacked to the sawn.

Someone can burn them, they make a quick fire.

As quick as a newspaper, I say. I want to hurl them

into the gully. Let nature do the recycling.

Of course you win. After living so long a time

side by side, I know how to choose; what quarrels

not to pick.

And so in the chartreuse days

of April we work together stacking by size

neat piles of trash wood to gladden the eye:

Wood enough for the hereafter.


Happy Birthday, Maxine! Your labor lights the Here and the Hereafter!

And to all readers,

Deep Peace of the Light of the World To You!

Robert McDowell

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