They deceive us. And we them.
Carving our kids’ whims into
their plump & gusty flesh,
handfuls of scooped seeds
mounding the newspaper-strewn
floor, bent to the scarred oilcloth
saved from the year before,
we huddle in the circle of their
scent — acrid & still — blades
tracing grins already inked into
their bland & swollen skins
that we might alter, always, if
we dare — slight frenzy, grimace,
calm — by one swift slice or angle
of the wrist. Our kids, all goggle-
eyed, watch on. And on we carve,
refining lines — the razor’s edge
of their gapped teeth — not
quitting where we might, now
hardly conscious that we carve
for them . . . . Finished now.
They stare, queer, droll, triangle-
eyed, crescent mouths agape.
Our kids squeal with delight.
Days beyond festivities, the
neighborhood grown calm
again in chill fall’s leafless time,
they lean from the porch ledge,
dull orange, spent, features
caving in & turning pulp. We
watch them now the most,
& feel them kin. Their smiles
as they rot, become more real.
Dan Stryk's X-ray
"Pumpkins" first appeared in The Southern Humanities Review,
and later in Dan’s first full-length volume of poems,The Artist
and the Crow (Purdue University Press). This revised
version will be appearing in Back to the Source: Selected
Poems & Parables [