The Hermit Goes Up Attic

Maxine Kumin

 
Up attic, Lucas Harrison, God rest
his frugal bones, once kept a tidy account
by knifecut of some long-gone harvest.
The wood was new. The pitch ran down to blunt
the year: 1811, the score: 10, he carved
into the center rafter to represent
his loves, beatings, losses, hours, or maybe
the butternuts that taxed his back and starved
the red squirrels higher up each scabbed tree.
1812 ran better. If it was bushels he risked,
he would have set his sons to rake them ankle deep
for wintering over, for wrinkling off their husks
while downstairs he lulled his jo to sleep.
By 1816, whatever the crop goes sour.
Three tallies cut by the knife are all
in a powder of dead flies and wood dust pale as flour.
Death, if it came then, has since gone dry and small.
But the hermit makes this up. Nothing is known
under this rooftree keel veed in with chestnut
ribs. Up attic he always hears the ghosts
of Lucas Harrison's great trees complain
chafing against their mortised pegs,
a woman in childbirth pitching from side to side
until the wet head crowns between her legs
again, and again she will bear her man astride
and out of the brawl of sons he will drive like oxen
tight at the block and tackle, whipped to the trace,
come up these burly masts, these crossties broken
from their growing and buttoned into place.
Whatever it was is now a litter of shells.
Even at noon the attic vault is dim.
The hermit carves his own name in the sill
that someone after will take stock of him.
 
From Bringing Together by Maxine Kumin. Copyright © 2003 by Maxine Kumin. Used by permission of W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

In the Park by Maxine Kumin
You have forty-nine days between
Jack by Maxine Kumin
How pleasant the yellow butter
Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year by Maxine Kumin
Instead of marrying the day after graduation
Purgatory by Maxine Kumin
And suppose the darlings get to Mantua,
Where I Live by Maxine Kumin
is vertical
Woodchucks by Maxine Kumin
Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.


Further Reading

Poems about Anonymity and Loneliness
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
79
by Joachim du Bellay
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
Acts of Mind
by Catherine Barnett
Alone
by Maya Angelou
Alone for a Week
by Jane Kenyon
Angel of Duluth [excerpt]
by Madelon Sprengnether
At a Window
by Carl Sandburg
Beyond the Pane
by Greg Hewett
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory
Drawing from Life
by Reginald Shepherd
Eating Alone
by Li-Young Lee
Found Poem
by Howard Nemerov
Gospel
by Philip Levine
How I Am
by Jason Shinder
How the mind works still to be sure
by Jennifer Denrow
How to See Deer
by Philip Booth
I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I Am!
by John Clare
I'm Nobody! Who are you? (260)
by Emily Dickinson
Isolation: To Marguerite
by Matthew Arnold
Loneliness
by Trumbull Stickney
Mnemosyne
by Trumbull Stickney
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
Mountain Pines
by Robinson Jeffers
Museum
by Glyn Maxwell
Ode to Solitude
by Alexander Pope
On the Terrace
by Landis Everson
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Sex
by Michael Ryan
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Song of Myself
by John Canaday
Song of Quietness
by Robinson Jeffers
Sonnet V
by Mahmoud Darwish
Sympathy
by Edith Franklin Wyatt
The Creation
by James Weldon Johnson
The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth
The Living Beauty
by W. B. Yeats
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Suicide
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Whole World Is Gone
by Jennifer Grotz
This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Toro
by Sarah Gambito
WHERE?
by Kenneth Patchen
White Days
by Priscilla Becker
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
by Walt Whitman
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan