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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Rose McLarney

Who Stays

She’s stung with resentment like nettle-slapped girl’s legs

in summer all year, how many years, not leaving out of here.


So often, mud sucks at her feet saying, Squandered. But still

there are a few trout lilies, blossoms down-turned,


heads dropped, faces hidden. Those who don’t try to show,

and see something in this dirt. Wild flowers tend to themselves


while all people plant these days are satellite dishes.

Their necks crane in crazy directions to get any shot at the sky,


some signal from far off.

Return Visit

It’s cut off, the hotel. From the town

to which there are no sidewalks. The grassy

bit between walled interstates each going

opposite, absolute directions away. The air

outside un-openable windows. The Appalachian

ridges in sight beyond, above the low, base lines

of box stores, but not in reach. The question

How did I ever leave my mountains? displaced

by What’s left of here? in the chain business.

Called that, but link-less. Even fully-booked,

a vacant building.


It was isolation of another kind, no roads across

rough terrain, growing up talking to oneself

in an uninfluenced accent, that once let a rural place

keep alive its ways. In the lobby, there’s a pamphlet

about the past, folk art. Images to make study of

here where I’m stuck. Of a sculpture, an ark, crafted

from scrap wood, populated by pigs and possums.

Not lions and elephants. By locals, not exotics

the carver could not, in his time, know. His focus

devoted, defined by hills, tightly framing how far

the eye will go.


Though in a traveler today too—in rented rooms,

in walls where water sound can only be the brook

of next door’s flushing, in departure gates’ fluorescent light

where any foliage is faux—sincere feeling arises. An urge

to unseal the sterile, individual package of every lonely

peanut and soap. And the airport shuttle passes open

barns of curing tobacco, a traditional crop. Or troubling,

but a color that is a glory, in any case. The gold it turns

because it has been cut. So long, the ark was adrift.

consider the many beasts, the wild beliefs,

it carried forward.


Rose McLarney has published two collections of poems, Its Day Being Gone (Penguin Books, 2014)—winner of the National Poetry Series—and The Always Broken Plates of Mountains (Four Way Books, 2012). Rose has been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and Warren Wilson College; was the 2016 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place and 2016 winner of the Chaffin Award at Morehead State; and has received other prizes such as Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in publications including The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, The Oxford American, Missouri Review, and many other journals. Rose earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and has taught at the college, among other institutions. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University and Co-Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of The Southern Humanities Review.

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