Saturday

Jun. 16, 2007

Nurture

by Maxine Kumin

SATURDAY, 16 JUNE, 2007
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Poem: "Nurture" by Maxine W. Kumin, from Selected Poems 1960-1990. W.W. Norton & Company, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Nurture

From a documentary on marsupials I learn
that a pillowcase makes a fine
substitute pouch for an orphaned kangaroo.

I am drawn to such dramas of animal rescue.
They are warm in the throat. I suffer, the critic proclaims,
from an overabundance of maternal genes.

Bring me your fallen fledgling, your bummer lamb,

lead the abused, the starvelings, into my barn.
Advise the hunted deer to leap into my corn.

And had there been a wild child–
filthy and fierce as a ferret, he is called
in one nineteenth-century account–

a wild child to love, it is safe to assume,
given my fireside inked with paw prints,
there would have been room.

Think of the language we two, same and not-same,
might have constructed from sign,
scratch, grimace, grunt, vowel:

Laughter our first noun, and our long verb, howl.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Bloomsday, the day on which the action in James Joyce's novel Ulysses takes place in 1904. Leopold Bloom, the main character of Ulysses, does not have much work to do, spends most of his day wandering around Dublin doing some errands, leaves his house on Eccles Street, walks south across the River Liffey, picks up a letter, buys a bar of soap, and goes to the funeral of a man he didn't know very well. In the afternoon, he has a cheese sandwich, feeds the gulls in the river, helps a blind man cross the street, and visits a couple of pubs. He thinks about his job, his wife, his daughter, his stillborn son. He muses about life and death and reincarnation. He knows that his wife is going to cheat on him that afternoon at his house. In the evening, he wanders around the red-light district of Dublin and meets up with a young writer named Stephen Dedalus, who is drunk. And so Leopold Bloom takes him home with him and offers to let him spend the night. And they stand outside, looking at the stars for a while. And then Bloom goes inside and climbs into bed with his wife.


It's the birthday of Joyce Carol Oates (books by this author), born in Lockport, New York (1938), one of the most prolific writers anywhere, having published almost 100 books in 40 years, novels, short stories, plays, poetry, and essays. She was born into a hardworking, rural family. Her parents were poor and uneducated, but both of them had artistic leanings. Her father came home from a tool-and-die shop and played piano in the evenings.

She went to school in a one-room schoolhouse, and when she was eight, her grandmother gave her a copy of Alice in Wonderland, which she loved so much, she memorized the whole book word for word. She went to a good high school in a suburb of Buffalo and became the first member of her family to get a high school diploma.

She won a National Book Award in 1970 for her novel Them. Since then, many of her novels have been best sellers, including Bellefleur (1980) and We Were the Mulvaneys (1996).

Joyce Carol Oates said, "We [humans] are the species that clamors to be lied to."


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