Jessica F. Smith
Autumn is the time of pumpkin fields.
Dabs of orange jump like exclamations
from the twisting vines and bare earth.
My sister and I linger by the wooden bins,
inspecting each pumpkin with a critic’s eye,
tall and smooth weighed against squat and bumpy.
On my lap in the car,
I run my hands over the firm sides,
reveling in the tension of the upcoming holiday.
At home we spread newspapers onto the kitchen floor.
The hollow chunk of the knife
precedes the gruesome process of vegetable lobotomy.
Reaching in up to our elbows,
our hands explore the cool depths,
delighting in the squishy stringiness,
the way the seeds squirt between our fingers.
Later, when the room is filled with the smell of pumpkin,
we wash our sticky hands and proudly crowd round the table where they sit,
leering with their new crooked faces.
Dad lights the candles and darkens the room.
Twisted shadows flicker and dance
as the jack o’ lanterns grin, their faces come alive before the flames.
The smell of burning mixes with fresh pumpkin.
When at last we tire of admiring our creations,
we place them out on the front step to grimace at passersby.
Back inside we squirm under the thick covers of our beds
then drop off to sleep, heads filled with full moons, black cats and witches.
A faint whiff of jack o’ lantern lingers,
frost forms on the leaves.