Jun. 20, 2006

After Love

by Maxine Kumin

TUESDAY, 20 JUNE, 2006
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Poem: "After Love" by Maxine Kumin from Selected Poems 1960-1990. © WW Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

After Love

Afterwards, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries.

These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.

Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.

The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar

and overhead, a plane
singsongs, coming down.

Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when

the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self

lay lightly down, and slept.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1977 that the trans-Alaska Pipeline began to pump oil for the first time. It was the largest private construction project ever completed in United States history, built to carry oil from an oil field on the northern slope of Alaska, eight hundred miles away from the nearest harbor.

Environmentalists sued to stop the project, and the battle was fought in the U.S. Congress. It came down to the Senate, where the votes were split fifty-fifty. Vice President Spiro Agnew broke the tie in 1973, voting for the project.

Tens of thousands of people poured into Alaska to work on the pipeline, and they often worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. They were paid about $2,000 a month, and got to eat free steak and lobster. The pipe they built was forty-eight inches in diameter, and it stretched eight hundred miles, zigzagging over three mountain ranges and crossing thirty-four major rivers, including the Yukon.

It took about three years to complete, and $8 billion to build. But once it began pumping, about 1.9 million barrels of crude oil began flowing through the pipe every day, traveling at about seven miles an hour to the port of Valdez. There have been problems with leaks, but one problem that environmentalists worried about was solved. In order to not disturb the migration of the Caribou, the pipe was built about ten feet above the ground. Today the Caribou, along with many other animals, walk underneath the pipe without even noticing it.

It's the birthday of Vikram Seth, (books by this author) born in Calcutta, India (1952). He's the author of A Suitable Boy (1993), the longest single-volume work of fiction in English since 1747. The first draft was 5,000 pages long. His editor helped him trim it down to about 1,500 pages. Seth wrote on the dedication page, "Buy me before good sense insists / You'll strain your purse and sprain your wrists."

It's the birthday of the historian Peter Gay, (books by this author) born in Berlin (1923). In his book Savage Reprisals (2003), he argues that novelists make bad social historians because they are so often inspired to criticize society by their own desire for revenge.

It's the birthday of poet Paul Muldoon, (books by this author) born in Portadown, Ireland (1951). He's the author of many collections of poetry, including Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

It was on this day in 1893 that the verdict was announced in the trial of Lizzie Borden, who had been accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax. She was found not guilty.

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