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.


One thought on “119. Picking Pumpkins

  1. I’ve never had much luck growing pumpkins, so I appreciate this piece since it lets me experience the harvest vicariously. Good timing by the editor!

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