Maxine Kumin – At the Pitch

Maxine Kumin (June 6, 1925 – February 6, 2014)

If I could only live at the pitch
that is near madness, Eberhart wrote
but there was his wife Betty hanging onto
his coattails for dear life to the end of her life.
No one intervened when my mother’s brother’s
wife ran off with the new young rabbi
every woman in the congregation had a crush on.
They rose unleashed, fleeing west
into the sooty sky over Philadelphia
in a pillar of fire, at the pitch that is near madness
touching down in the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Cleveland. Chicago. O westward!
O fornication! I was sixteen.
Eberhart had written his poem before
he sailed off to World War II and a boy
had just put his tongue in my mouth
which meant he could make
me do anything. No one
holding onto his coattails, no one onto my skirt
until my father switched on the back porch light.