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Morning Swim

Into my empty head there come 
a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom

I set out, oily and nude
through mist, in chilly solitude.

There was no line, no roof or floor
to tell the water from the air.

Night fog thick as terry cloth
closed me in its fuzzy growth.

I hung my bathrobe on two pegs.
I took the lake between my legs.

Invaded and invader, I
went overhand on that flat sky.

Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame.
In their green zone they sang my name

and in the rhythm of the swim
I hummed a two-four-time slow hymn.

I hummed "Abide With Me." The beat
rose in the fine thrash of my feet,

rose in the bubbles I put out
slantwise, trailing through my mouth.

My bones drank water; water fell
through all my doors. I was the well

that fed the lake that met my sea
in which I sang "Abide With Me."

—Maxine Kumin

from Selected Poems 1960-1990
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Copyright 1965 by Maxine Kumin.

Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from Selected Poems 1960-1990. Copyright 1965 by Maxine Kumin. For further permissions information, contact W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Maxine Kumin (1925-2014), born and raised in Philadelphia, received a bachelor's degree in 1946 and a master's in 1948 from Radcliffe College. Her poetry themes include family relationships, rural life in New England and the inner life of women. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for "Up Country: Poems of New England." The mother of three children, she published 11 books of poetry, taught for several years at Tufts and served as poet in residence at many colleges and universities. She and her husband raised horses on their farm in New Hampshire.

Learn more about Maxine Kumin at The Poetry Foundation.