Spring Cleaning

by Laura McCullough

Feature image: Vasily Kandinsky. Houses at Murnau, 1909. The Art Institute of Chicago.

When we moved the couch
we found the pumpkin,
the tiny one we’d picked that day in the run-up to Halloween
with the kids at the apple-picking farm.
It was small to begin with, smaller than an apple,
and now it is desiccated
though not as much as you might imagine;
it’s top-sunken, and wrinkled, the bottom flatter
but the whole of it soft
as if it might be full of rot or even of crème,
as if you might pry it open
along one of the long wrinkles or fissures,
that autumn orange color gone pale,
and out might come some wonderful and unexpected thing.

I don’t pry it open, but can’t bear to throw it out.
Instead I place it by the little handle of its stem onto the mantel.
It is happy there, and I too feel happy,
a little survivor, not blazing,
but brilliant in my still-here-ness,
a bit proud of myself.
In spring I can never remember fall
and I talk myself through the laughing-at-you days of spring
that never deliver what they promise.
Only July gives you everything.
Then August begins to take it away.
And there’s not enough to lose anymore.
Which is why we always pick so many more apples
than we could ever eat, bags and bags full,
and why so many will go bad,
that sticky odor coming up from the produce drawer,
the ooze that always gets on your hand
when you reach in without looking.

Laura McCullough’s most recent book of poetry is Wild Night Dress selected by Billy Collins in the Miller Williams poetry series at University of Arkansas Press. Her forthcoming book, Women & Other Hostages, will be released by Black Lawrence process in spring of 2021.

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