Image by Peter Shulman

The Revisionist Dream

Maxine Kumin


The Revisionist Dream

Maxine Kumin


Poem introduction

This poem is about the suicide of Anne Sexton in 1974 and it's a villanelle.

The Revisionist Dream

The Revisionist Dream

Well, she didn't kill herself that afternoon.
It was a mild day in October, we sat outside
over sandwiches. She said she had begun

to practice yoga, take piano lessons,
rewrite her drama rife with lust and pride
and so she didn't kill herself that afternoon,

hugged me, went home, cranked the garage doors open,
scuffed through the garish leaves, orange and red,
that brought on grief. She said she had begun

to translate Akhmatova, her handsome Russian
piano teacher rendering the word-for-word
so she didn't kill herself that afternoon.

She cooked for him, made quiche and coq au vin.
He stood the Czerny method on its head
while her fingers flew. She said she had begun

accelerandos, Julia Child, and some
expand-a-lung deep breaths to do in bed
so she didn't kill herself that afternoon.
We ate our sandwiches. The dream blew up at dawn.


from Still to Mow (W W Norton, 2005), © Maxine Kumin 2005, used by permission of the author, c/o Giles Anderson and the publisher.

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Books by Maxine Kumin