Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Mary Stone’

119. Picking Pumpkins

We cross the levy to find the vines,

wringing the handles of sickles

with garden-gloved hands.

 

Rows of sprouts, patched into

well-drained soil, carve rectangle

fields into the ground.

 

The ribs of pumpkins flare,

each one its own puffed chest

huddled against splintered stems.

 

My grandpa works with a scythe,

bending his body at the waist

on fake hips that crackle like bonfires,

his face warped in the sunlight.

 

I sneak cigarettes behind the pick-up,

each breath a mix of rotting pulp,

tobacco, and pumpkin seeds.

The meat of my thumbs ache

from cutting stems.

 

Grandma and grandpa lean

against the wind, failing plant stems,

blossoms cut from the tips. The autumn gold,

bushkin, cheese pumpkin, are always ready

for carving and cutting from the vine,

We leave the place greened, weeded.

Even big moons cave in our tired palms.

 

We fill our shirts and buckets

with sugar treats, winter luxuries.

These baby pumpkins know

how to live and die quietly,

sitting on window ledges till

mid-November, faceless.

 

Mary Stone’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Amoskeag, Pennsylvania Literary Review, Lingerpost, FutureCycle Poetry, Flint Hills Review, and other fine journals. In 2011 she received the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry. Currently, she is an MFA student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where she teaches English classes and serves as a reader for Beecher’s and the Blue Island Review.

92. The Woman Doing Cartwheels in the Living Room

She is the woman doing cartwheels in the living room. Her hands press into carpet, collect pebbles and crumbs. Her legs pinwheel the air. The windows clatter and expand, tissue paper in the wind or mirrors crowding around her, waiting to see her fall.

 

When she was young, she tore lettuce rather than cut it. She said if you used a knife it would bruise too soon. That was a long time before, and she was a blonde then. All the men saw her hips swish when she walked by.

 

She likes the way the walls swirl before her, the lining in the wood panels their own veins, dizzied and open, draining onto the baseboards, then the floor, where she focuses her eyes when she spins.

 

The woman doing cartwheels in the living room sees faces at night. They are smudged with dirt and mouth words she cannot hear. The faces remind her of the children she never wanted to have, the eyes she finds in her dreams, the small hands pulling at her shirt sleeves. She covers her head with a blanket.

 

She thinks of the black-lit rooms, the empty bed down the hall. Her hands ache. Her feet are scratched and scarred from slipping on tile. Her mind is a snowy highway with dull lights. She cannot remember how to stop skidding.

 

She is the woman doing cartwheels in the living room. Her jean shorts are frayed at the edges. Her shirt falls, exposing fire scars on her belly from pregnancy. She tucks in her shirt and it comes undone, and she cannot hide it from the world.

– Mary Stone

Mary Stone’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Amoskeag, Pennsylvania Literary Review, Lingerpost, FutureCycle Poetry, Flint Hills Review, and other fine journals. In 2011 she received the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry. Currently, she is an MFA student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where she teaches English classes and serves as a reader for Beecher’s and the Blue Island Review.

 

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