“Remains,” a Poem by Rose McLarney

From the New Collection “Colorfast”

March 6, 2024  By Rose McLarney


Burning fuel but not to travel away,
boys cruised circles around town. Then,
came back, to park at the gas station
where they began. Girls stayed in the lot.
Waiting for men with powers endowed

by time. Strangers of age to buy liquor
would do for a while, until the local boys
grew up enough, got ready to realize claims
on the land where, already, roads, schools,
and cemeteries bore their names. So we

could take, or be taken by them, too.
It seemed our staying, boys’ circling, were
the continuation of all that was ever done.
We didn’t consider the figure standing
across the street, as it had for a millennium:

the mound, built by people preceding
the Cherokee. Where the townhouse
of that ancient civilization would have been.
What might be lying beneath. Or legends
of sacred fire buried and still blazing there.

Neither did we yet know what the town founded
this century had interred—oil tanks. Which leaked.
While we struck matches, dropped cigarettes, and
watched boys’ hands at rest on the steering wheels
of leased trucks, eager for their next move, fingers

of combustible seepage reached in the direction
of the mound. Yet we were spared flames. Allowed
to go on, speaking of we (unaware of all it didn’t hold),
a little farther into what young history we’d heard,
loitering on the surface of that earth.


Colorfast - McLarney, Rose

From Colorfast by Rose McLarney, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2024 by Rose McLarney.

Rose McLarney
Rose McLarney
Rose McLarney’s collections of poems are Colorfast, Forage, and Its Day Being Gone, from Penguin Poets, as well as The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, published by Four Way Books. She is coeditor of A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, from University of Georgia Press, and the journal Southern Humanities Review. Rose has been awarded fellowships by MacDowell and Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences; served as Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place; and is winner of the National Poetry Series, the Chaffin Award for Achievement in Appalachian Writing, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry, among other prizes. Her work has appeared in publications including American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Orion, and The Oxford American. Currently, she is professor of creative writing at Auburn University.

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