All Souls' over, the roast seeds eaten, I set
on a backporch post our sculpted pumpkin
under the weather, warm still for November.
Night and day it gapes in at us
through the kitchen window, going soft
in the head. Sleepwalker-slow, a black rash of ants
harrows this hollow globe, munching
the pale peach flesh, sucking its seasoned
last juices dry. In a week, when the ants and
humming flies are done, only a hard remorseless light
drills and tenants it through and through. Within,
it turns mould-black in patches, stays
days like this while the weather takes it
in its shifty arms: wide eye-spaces shine,
the disapproving mouth holds firm. Another week,
a sad leap forward: sunk to one side
so an eye-socket's almost blocked, it becomes
a monster of its former self. Human, it would have
rotted beyond unhappiness and horror
to some unspeakable subject state-its nose
no more than a vertical hole, the thin
bridge of amber between nose and mouth
in ruins. The other socket opens
wider than ever: disbelief.
It's all downhill
from here: knuckles of sun, peremptory
steady fingers of frost, strain all day and night-
cracking the rind, kneading the knotted fibres
free. The crown, with its top-knot mockery
of stalk, caves in; the skull buckles; the whole
sad head drips tallowy tears: the end
is in sight. In a day or two it topples on itself
like ruined thatch, pus-white drool spidering
from the corner of the mouth, worming its way
down the body-post. All dignity to the winds,
it bows its bogeyman face of dread
to the inevitable.
And now, November almost out,
it is in the bright unseasonable sunshine
a simmer of pulp, a slow bake, amber shell speckled
chalk-grey with lichen. Light strikes and strikes
its burst surfaces: it sags, stays at the end of
its brief tether-a helmet of dark circles, death caul.
Here is the last umbilical gasp, everybody's
nightmare parent, the pitiless system
rubbing our noses in it. But pity poor lantern-head
with his lights out, glob by greasy glob
going back where he came from: as each seed-shaped
dropp falls free, it catches and clutches
for one split second the light. When the pumpkin
lapses to our common ground at last-where
a swaddle of snow will fold it in no time
from sight-I try to take in the empty space it's left
on top of the wooden post: it is that empty space.