Poem introduction

This poem is called 'Nurture'. It refers to a nineteenth century account of a supposed wild child when in truth historically there never has been a true wild child discovered.

Nurture

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.


from Selected Poems 1960-1990 (W W Norton, 1997), © Maxine Kumin 1997, used by permission of used by permission of the author, c/o Giles Anderson and the publisher.

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