At the End of the Winter, Southwest Virginia

Here, now
What is keenest
Is the horizon above the barn,
White pines in rank and sharp air spilling down,
The winds off the Blue Ridge. We tramp up the melting snow the pools
The mud to the fence line, admire the red oxen in the pasture,
Auburn bodies of gentle power against the patching white,
Horns curve fierce and ivory, a piece with the lay of the land
And the land’s tongues’ gentle lilt. I know
The gentleness belies the fierceness, too,
And I pray both stay long and lean against the hard times
Building up brilliant store, a slumbering trout lily under the snow.

These Low, Old Places

The ceilings are five feet high, house crowded
by history and rotting rafters he’ll have to tear out-
the tall, young man who just bought it.
Beside a stooped old apple
(too long un-pruned to be bowed by fruit),
while the day backs down
behind the ridge, he makes plans.
He wonders, for a moment, what it would have been
like to be born here, though he is hearing
the answer when peepers in the boggy places below
send up their little staggered songs
and let them fall down. If you have had
spring evenings, then you know
how it has always been here: Love always shot
with the feeling this is the last of it.
Always told to outgrow
the mountains that would block your view,
these serious, sad playhouses, these low, old places
where you want to hunker, where you can’t
stand up straight.

Rose McLarney, ‘Living Up,’ in The Always Broken Plates of Mountains (New York: Four Ways Books, 2012).