“Broody” by Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin


Ideally, they like to get the hole dug, then lead
the crippled or blind or tottery ancient thing
to the edge and steady him with a final scoop
of grain before he topples, thanks to that one
well-placed bullet.
Last week a pickup truck
pulling a two-horse trailer went off the road
trapping two broken horses alive enough to scream.
No one could find a state trooper willing to use his gun.
The nearest vet was out on a call 20 miles away.
You can imagine the rest.
So I said to her, Broody
every night when I checked for water and hay
and a decent layer of bedding, Broody
it’s up to you. Stay as long as you like. And when
the thirty-five-year-old blind broodmare died
in her sleep, in her stall, in the night, everyone
agreed it was the perfect ending. But
getting her out wasn’t pretty.
They had
to wrap chains around her hind legs and haul
her body out with the tractor, except she got
wedged in the doorway and by the time they had
pried her loose, her gut had burst and left
a fetid trail across the paddock—
for weeks
the others would stop to curl their upper lips
and sniff, heads raised in the flehmen gesture.
Even from the top of the pasture the herd could see
the backhoe digging and digging.
It was March,
the ground grudgingly yielding frozen chunks.
The men grumbled at working in weather like this
even though they were neighbors, even though
they’d marveled a hundred times how she seemed to find
her way from barn to paddock to the back field
following the sun as it raised its curtain
and following the shadow it left coming down.
Inside her four known walls Broody had gone,
given in with her blind eyes open.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003


Maxine Kumin: “I was the mother of three. I joined a poetry workshop—someone told my husband about it and he told me, a poetry workshop at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The workshop was run by John Holmes, who was a professor at Tufts University, and in that workshop I met my dearest friend ever, Anne Sexton. We were two little suburban housewives commuting into the big city once a week for this poetry workshop and that was the beginning. At the time, of course, we had no notion that we were making history, but looking back on it I see that we were in the forefront, really in the vanguard, of the women’s movement. We were two young wives and mothers, desperately trying to make it in a male-centered world of poetry where women poets were to be totally disregarded. It’s a miracle to me that we did but we did.”

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