“Morning Swim” by Maxine Kumin
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
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."
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.
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.