Poem of the Week | June 04, 2013

This week we’re delighted to offer up a new poem by Rose McLarney. Rose’s collection of poems, The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, was published by Four Way Books in 2012.  She has been awarded The Fellowship of Southern Writers’ biennial George Garrett New Writing Award for Poetry, Alligator Juniper’s 2011 National Poetry Prize, and the Joan Beebe Fellowship at Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in publications including The  Kenyon Review, Orion, Slate, New England Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, and dozens of other journals. Rose earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and has taught writing at the college.

Author’s Note:

I hope that, in my poems, landscape is more than a backdrop or a decorative flourish. The way in which the speaker relates to landscape reveals his or her attitude toward the world or situation at large, and the landscape is entrusted to carry meaning, to varied and telling degrees.

In my first book, The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, I wrote about a very specific quarter of the earth—the Appalachian mountains in which I have spent most all of my life—and allowed its well-worn topography, among other traits, to set the tone of the poems. However, as I’ve moved on to write my next collection, and had to move away from home, I’ve begun to question how I remember places and how I perceive new ones. How do we decide what to include in a landscape? Why will I or won’t I mention the junk cars and eroded banks? How do we decide where we will crop every frame through which we see?

“Wet Not With Weeping” is a willful (a good-willed) representation of my new setting on the opposite coast from the one I know—Oregon in winter. The poem no longer speaks from the certainty of belonging, but with its interrupted syntax,  inquires and invites response and confirmation. Taking a big picture approach, making analogies not to personal experience but abstract painting, it shows the speaker composing—and coloring—the landscape.

Wet Not With Weeping

Rain is lines, barely, I squint to see.
It’s a quality, evenly over the whole
outward view. It’s what moves the leaves
when I cannot say why else they would bow.
How could one draw, how can I word, this?


“The Greeks too are calm; a man hurling
a discus will be shown in the moment
in which he gathers his strength,”
the painter said. It is the pause before motion
that he understands he can try to capture.
So might my words, still all this time, have been
hunched before a leap, hunkered beneath
a shelter—an old roof, a rock, rain
running off the lip.


Even falling, rain is a constant. No point of origin
or end, no definite edges to any drop. Even
as it happens, rain’s time is the before. Because
it pauses people. “I will not go out in it, yet,” we say.
At the window, I am preparing, my boots and coat,
to state something sure, or sufficient.


Then rain becomes, after months of it,
only a condition in which to carry on.
Rain is the first sound I hear when I wake.
The first feeling on my skin when I step out.
I continue. What could be more affirmative
than deciding “never mind” and beginning
a walk though clouds convene overhead?


But if I say I sense, foremost in the world,
winter rain, it may not seem praise.
You see me as somber. How else could I be?
Heavy is the dress for this weather.


Let the picture be judged not the likeness
it makes. See how my lines stray–
towards sentiment. I use the broad, over-wet brush
of the rain. The trees, as done by it, are no certain
species, neither needled nor bare, not even
branched or broken into any parts.
They’re blurs, they’re great blots.
By great, I mean not just spreading,
but grand.


I mean gray. If I chose for the image a palette
that reflects, not reality, but bent, I would
celebrate in gray. Winter’s brambles and rosehips
are red in only a few bright daubs, too distinct,
too select. Would contentment not be the color
of the soaked ground, what stretches on, sodden?


I take as the figure for my acclaim
even the disfavored rain.