The Thirties Revisited
dreamed late 1970s by Maxine Kumin
It starts with the clothes-prop man
who is driving his stickload of notches and points
down the streets of my childhood. His horse
knocks from side to side on Lincoln Log joints
and the feedbag sways at the rear
dribbling its measure of oats.
It's the thirties again, that dream. I'm assigned
to remember laundry lifting like ghosts
on the propped-up lines where step-ins blush,
the cheeks of trousers fill, and skirts
open their petals in the washday wind.
But why just now must the horse go lame,
drop in the shafts and be left behind
struggling, struggling so to rise
that blood pours from his nose?
Why is he shot
on this Monday noon of my queer pinched life
as I watch from the parlor window seat?
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
My father's bootlegger has just driven up
On the way back, muddy, I stop for a drink
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me Tight
Now I am ten. Enter Mamselle,
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me Flat
Two more years of Kaltenborn's reports
My father will cry like a child.
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me Dead
"The Thirties Revisited" was originally published in Kumin's collection The Retrieval System. Along with many other poems incorporating dreams, it's also in Kumin's Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief (1982). She won a Pulitzer Prize for Up Country. All her work is concrete, personal and forceful; some critics have flamed Kumin for her sometimes savage opinions. I admire her.
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