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

Rights & Access

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.

  • Maxine Kumin

    Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) published 18 poetry collections, including Up Country: Poems of New England (1972), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Looking for Luck (1992), winner of the Poets’ Prize; and Where I Live: New and Selected Poems (2011). She served as U.S. Consultant in Poetry from 1981 to 1982.