We Were Born in a World with Predators: Featured Poetry by Rose McLarney

September 10, 2019 | 1 book mentioned 2 min read

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Forage by Rose McLarney. Her poems always make me want to linger. If poetry, as an art, slows us down, then McLarney’s poems slow us and sink us and rejuvenate our sense of the surrounding world.

McLarney’s poems are so tactile; here we follow the narrator’s hands into the cold chicken, feel the “warmth of eggs / in the time when we / collected them fresh.” These moments of touch allow McLarney to widen her scope with the shift of a line—so that her abstractions feel as tangible as lemons and herbs.

After Hearing of His Passing

I kept sliding lemon under the skin
and herbs into the openings
of a chicken, its cold countering

the recalled warmth of eggs
in the time when we
collected them fresh

from beneath hens. Our hands,
feather-brushed, found ways
to come near one another.

We took the birds’ eggs. We took
their lives too, if raccoons didn’t
first, eating the craw full of grain

only and leaving the body
to waste, as the whole of him
does now that he’s dead young.

Most waste I can avoid (I’d save hearts,
sauté livers, when we slaughtered).
But not the truth that I have handled

his body, intimately, and other beings’
entrails. And I still make meals.
We were born in a world with predators.

We have lived, from the beginning,
knowing how we were created,
sharp-toothed and hungry.

But not who would have the pleasure
of feeding, when one would feel the pain
of prey. I will serve another chicken,

and I may say its cooked skin is golden,
a kind of exaltation. And the sorrow
will be biting. And birds will keep surviving.

Scavenging insects and flesh from the sick
of their flocks, seeds from sunflowers
and blossoms from rose bushes in reach.

I kept sliding lemon under the skin
and herbs into the openings
of a chicken, its cold countering

the recalled warmth of eggs
in the time when we
collected them fresh

from beneath hens. Our hands,
feather-brushed, found ways
to come near one another.

We took the birds’ eggs. We took
their lives too, if raccoons didn’t
first, eating the craw full of grain

only and leaving the body
to waste, as the whole of him
does now that he’s dead young.

Most waste I can avoid (I’d save hearts,
sauté livers, when we slaughtered).
But not the truth that I have handled

his body, intimately, and other beings’
entrails. And I still make meals.
We were born in a world with predators.

We have lived, from the beginning,
knowing how we were created,
sharp-toothed and hungry.

But not who would have the pleasure
of feeding, when one would feel the pain
of prey. I will serve another chicken,

and I may say its cooked skin is golden,
a kind of exaltation. And the sorrow
will be biting. And birds will keep surviving.

Scavenging insects and flesh from the sick
of their flocks, seeds from sunflowers
and blossoms from rose bushes in reach.

From Forage by Rose McLarney, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Rose McLarney. Previously published in the Birmingham Poetry Review.

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and The Kenyon Review. His newest book is Longing for an Absent God. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at nickripatrazone.com.

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