Maxine Scates

September 24, 2021 Scates Maxine



I loved bar light,
the shimmer of talk and glasses, deep reds
and amber.
Years later I wonder what is left and then dream
a swarm of bees flying
in the shape of a horse.  I know
where it came from though hers was a dragon
oh, hers was what she alone could see.
I remember the swarm flying
above us one summer as we willed it,
like trouble, elsewhere though
they settled under the eaves by the window.
I listened to them humming when they came home
from work at the end of the day.  The beekeeper
said they’d built too late
and wouldn’t survive the winter
and soon they departed.
Let the whale pushing her dead newborn
tell us, let the rest of the pod
helping to keep it afloat tell us
that no calf born in the last three years has survived.
Do you look back?
I always looked back
and while I was looking my life passed.
I have boxes of letters because we wrote them.
I have sorted them.  He wrote from a train.
She wrote while her children
were at school.  My mother
was lying on my bed after work.  She was trying
to read, but she wrote me instead.
Something else must have happened
but I thought
I saw everything.  Vision is narrow,
focusing leaves so much out, and what is excluded
scatters like blown milkweed
until it regathers, comes back bigger than it was—
so large we can’t see it,
the way we stood
on a cliff staring down at the churning sea,
the small flocks of birds riding something
we couldn’t make out until it spouted,
rose from the roiling water.
I am small and scared,
insolent and petty.  Eager to believe it all stopped there,
I have never relapsed.
I am arrogant,
an accident waiting to happen.
I have forgotten how
the world opened then
when I saw everything as the newly
redeemed do.  I have forgotten to be grateful.

Maxine Scates’ fourth book of poems, My Wilderness, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2021.  Her poems have been widely published in such journals as AGNI, The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Ironwood, The New England Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Plume, Poetry Northwest, Poetry and The Virginia Quarterly Review and have received, among other awards, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry and two Pushcart Prizes.