Poetry Sunday: In the Park by Maxine Kumin

Time is both a finite and a relative concept. Objectively, sixty seconds make a minute, sixty minutes make an hour. But subjectively, some minutes drag for us and one of them can seem like an hour. And if, for example, you are confronting a grizzly bear that lies/lays on you for a time, that time, if you survive to reflect upon it, could certainly feel like the forty-nine days of the Buddhist bardo, that time between death and rebirth. Maxine Kumin describes such an encounter in Glacier Park. 

In the Park
by Maxine Kumin
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you’re a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
—you won’t know till you get there which to do.
He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me
not doing anything. I could feel
his heart beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.
I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It’s a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven’s an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there’s a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,
and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.


  1. And what a truly harrowing experience it must have been. I bet a whole lot more contemplation took place after the fact!

    1. It is an experience that would tend to make you contemplate your life, perhaps in a new light.

  2. I can't help thinking that we are way beyond 49 days since the virus has been laying on humanity.

    1. Ah ha, you picked up on that. Yes, the grizzly bear has been lying on us for a while now and the experience, if we survive to reflect on it, should give us an enhanced appreciation of life and perhaps of our place in Nature.

  3. Way more than 49 days, maybe more like 76 days for us here in New York. It's been a time of mental drifting, of losing your way, of maybe finding it again..I wish that grizzly would get off of us and depart.

    1. Same here. I guess we are all tired of the grizzly but maybe it's better to stay in place and hope he'll eventually pass us by. As Mr. Miyagi might say, "Patience, Grasshopper."

  4. I always look forward to Sundays because of your poems, sadly, I wish it were only 49 days that our current virus would go away. I've lost track of how many days it's been...

    1. I just looked at my calendar and realized it has been 70 days for us today. Who could have guessed on January 1 that this would be the way the year would play out?


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