A Pumpkin at New Year’s

By Sandra McPherson b. 1943 Sandra McPherson
Heads were rolling down the highway in high slat trucks.   
I knew it was time to buy you and found you,
The last sphere unscarred and undistorted in the store,   
Big as my own head.

It was time too to leave you uncut and full-featured,   
Like the grandpa of twenty-five pumpkins in my past,   
Khrushchev-cheeked and dwelling on yourself,   
Great knee of my childhood.

I plainly thought you would rot.
I remembered the fetor of other pumpkins,
Their blue populations coming out of hiding as if at the end   
Of some apocalypse.

I devoted a day to reading up on minor cucurbits:   
I learned your dozen names in African
And came home ready to raise or raze you,   
Positive of change.

But so far—eternity. I think I would not like   
Eternity, after I had used my senses up,
As I’ve tried with you—fingertips dragging over your world   
Pole to pole

Till they go dead like explorers, nostril cilia
Detecting your fragrance more delicate than they—
And my patience. It’s Christmas, it’s a new year   
And I hear

Of a family who’s kept you for four ...
You endure like matter manufactured
And indeed your stem seems punched into your orange gathers
Like a button in a mattress.

Shall I give you a room or a shrine? And shall I   
Purchase you a mate and family,
When ours is so inadequate, fixed upon your window   
Deathbed as we are,

Centered upon a time and birth, new holiday, new friends,   
New pumpkins, celebrating when all
That has failed us has passed away.
You have not failed.

Sandra McPherson, “A Pumpkin at New Year’s” from Radiation (New York: The Ecco Press, 1973). Copyright © 1973 by Sandra McPherson. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Radiation (Ecco Press, 1973)

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Poet Sandra McPherson b. 1943

Subjects Winter, Fall, Gardening, Activities, Nature

Holidays New Year

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Sandra  McPherson


Sandra McPherson weaves vivid images culled from nature into what Contemporary Women Poets contributor David Young characterizes as "rich, complex, and deeply satisfying poems." In collections that include the National Book Award-nominated The Year of Our Birth, 1988's At the Grave of Hazel Hall, and 1996's Edge Effect: Trails and Portrayals, McPherson has increasingly honed her unsentimental, insightful verse, imbuing it with . . .

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SUBJECT Winter, Fall, Gardening, Activities, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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