The Always Broken Plates of Mountains
Set in the Appalachian landscape, Rose McLarney’s debut collection, The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, gives voice to a chorus of speakers, who are at once plainspoken, reverent, and musical. “There is a tenderness that persists” as McLarney explores what it means to be faithful—to the land, to one’s heritage, to one another. “I’ll choose a love, as I choose my home,/ an old white farmhouse, not far from where I grew up,” one speaker declares. And while the poems often feel as if they exist outside of time, they possess a quiet immediacy, “Love always shot/ with the feeling this is the last of it./ Always told to outgrow/ the mountains that would block your view.”
McLarney, a deft storyteller and graceful observer of the lyric moment, leads us into this “country for the ones who have stayed/ true to self sufficiency and silence,” and guides us through what is so lovingly built and what is left behind, what we hold onto and what we cannot keep from changing. “We are so harmed we are beautiful,” she writes, “the buildings abandoned by paint, the now unfarmed fields,”—but even through divorce and drought, even as the cattle market is turned into condos and the family land is clear-cut for the interstate, poem after poem reminds us “it’s only after the freeze/ that the trees can keep their needles, / no matter how you shake them.” The Always Broken Plates of Mountains honors the people who live and love and lose on the land, trying to preserve it by telling their stories while “leaving no/ fingerprints, making no mark.”
“Domestic,” from The Always Broken Plates of Mountains:
The sows are in heat, squealing and pink.
The wild boar comes from the forest
to batter at their pen.
on the trough. The water
breaks free. This takes
a pick ax. Wielding it, I feel wild.
But the only strength in this story
is the fences’. Not even boars are wild –
imported for hunting a hundred years ago,
crossing the sea in a rich man’s crate.
When I hang up the pick ax
it freezes to the nail, clinging as I do,
making my living elsewhere and
returning to farms after sunset,
the barns symbols
just discernable in the dark.