The neighbors have erected an inflatable pumpkin out of which arises
an inflatable dog. Then it descends, then rises again. I had imagined
a life set in another landscape, long stretches of rivers and fields.
Now I know it is autumn from the lawn decorations, the lawn mowers
trimming the football field again. Men measure and spool out string,
lay straight lines of paint on the canvas they’ve been given, the kind
that keeps growing grass through accomplishments. Showing great care.
As I suppose they do padding and helmeting their five-year-old sons
sent so soon to practice struggle. Why not such a field as a subject
for study, rather than a farm’s, which wouldn’t have been pastoral
for many—not in the land of cotton, for those who hoed and picked it.
And though there are few rivers here, there is rain. When that water falls,
equally and indiscriminately soaking everyone’s shoes, it weights
the inflatable dog. Now, nothing comes from the pumpkin, and my love
and I admit, over our early supper, we are made earnestly sad. We’ve got
none of our young loftiness left, little laughter for someone else’s loss
because they have bad taste. When the dog did work, its unfurling
was slow, one eye unfolding, a limb lengthening. They set it up in September.
A limb has sagged out of sight, an eye was sucked back, how many times
already? Yet we want all the measures, so much extension, even of these days.
Because the children on the field rush forward. As bidden. Coaches screaming
that they can’t cry. When they aren’t. Five and already they don’t cry. They try
for strong faces. People put up what they’d like to look at. It doesn’t stop them,
that the elements will take all ornament down.
Rose McLarney’s collections of poems are Its Day Being Gone, winner of the National Poetry Series, and Forage, forthcoming in 2019, both from Penguin Books, as well as The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, published by Four Way Books. A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, which she is coediting, is forthcoming from University of Georgia Press in 2018. Rose earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and has taught at the college, among other institutions. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University and Co-Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of The Southern Humanities Review.