Plato’s Pumpkins 

A patchwork quilt of pumpkins sown with gourds,
odd fellows green and yellow ‘twixt-and-‘tween
October’s orbs of orange the overlords
of cowboy, tramp, and witch come Halloween.
The pumpkins, large and small, a fertile ground:
goose eggs and horns and hooters, fat and lean
—the perfect pumpkin nowhere to be found—
thin reeds, split shot, odd knobs, pink tangerines.…
The Perfect Pumpkin’s ghost within us calls.
It beckons us to scour the pumpkin patch.
We look for pumpkins round as basketballs,
but mind sublime and nature do not match.
Perfection haunts the pumpkin patch within
—wry Jack O’ Lantern mocks us with his grin.

All Hallows’ Rune

Night ring of twenty six jade yellow eyes;
the forest deep, a cauldron steams: “’Tis time,”
a demon cries. “’Tis time, black cats arise!”
Dark felines yowl, they shriek! in malkin rhyme.
The demon purrs, “Yfel has barred the sun.
The darkness rules, unseal the ancient rune.
Wax vile, my pets, mischief, mayhem be done!
The night is nigh, behold, ascends the moon.”
A goblin feeds the cauldron’s witching brew:
dark root of Druid oak, sawtooth of shark,
hemlock, bright dragon scales, spittle of shrew,
black snake, an owlet’s wing, red heart of lark.
“Felines arise,” the hell-born demon cries.
“Come witches, fly! Eclipse the hallowed moon.
The night is yours. ‘Tis time, ‘tis time: Arise!
Go forth, heed now the spell: All Hallows’ Rune.”
Dark shadows rise, black birds of Halloween.
Upon the pagan moon, a visage looms:
peaked hat, hooked nose, pallor of sickly green.
Crones, cat clawed, assail astride their brooms.
Leland James is the author of five poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over three hundred poems worldwide including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was the winner of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
www.lelandjamespoet.com & https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/leland-james

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11 Responses

  1. Cynthia Erlandson

    Both of these are excellent sonnets! I love the theme of looking for the elusive perfect pumpkin— and the “basketball” rhyme was very clever. And the phrase “spittle of shrew” is so apt and unexpected in the list of ingredients.

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Oops— I see the second one isn’t a sonnet. It’s great, though.

  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    We all look for the perfect pumpkin for carving, but each of us has our own image of what makes it perfect while to others it may seem like the odd one out. “All Hallows Rune” is a thoroughly enjoyable Halloween poem with the usual suspects of black cats, demons, and goblins nicely ensconced in wonderful rhyme. Most enjoyable to read!

  3. Margaret Coats

    Hmm . . . It seems we need to survey the pumpkin patch with Aristotelian realism in order to discover what Plato’s ideal pumpkin might look like! And the Jack O’Lantern doesn’t suit either philosophy, but opposes transcendence in his own grinning way. Sophisticated carving, Leland.

    I just love the beginning line and image of “All Hallows Rune.” Perfect evocation of thirteen black cats–with more cattishness throughout the charm. Never thought of Halloween witches as an eclipse of the moon, but so it can be in this magical rune, especially if we recall the moon as usually denoting hallowed values like love and light. Incantatorial!

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    “Plato’s Pumpkins” is a wry comment on idealism’s incapacity to accept the imperfections of mundane existence. You’ll only find the perfect pumpkin in your head — or in other words, in some interior hallucination.

    “All Hallows’ Rune” has an very nice play on words. A “rune” is etymologically a “secret” or a Germanic letter that can be connected with secret writing, or a charm, or a magical spell. But the homophonic “ruin” means destruction, which is what the witches and their evil forces intend for the day called All Hallows (All Saints Day). The witches’ intention is to wreck or obliterate all that is holy.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    I have grown many a pumpkin, and perfect ones are hard to come by. What most pumpkins are good for is feeding livestock, though some of the smaller varieties, called sugar pumpkins, are good for pumpkin pie. I myself am no Peter pumpkin eater.

  6. Geoffrey Smagacz

    What is “malkin rhyme”? I like the wisdom behind “Plato’s Pumpkins.” This line, “but mind sublime and nature do not match,” is all too often true.

    • Leland James

      Malkin rhyme is researchable. And the mismatch of mind and mental form is in Plato’s theory of forms, also researchable. So criticizing poetry–and thanks for reading poety–requires background, or education, sometimes, not just interpreting in one’s own mind set. And no, actually, there is on earth not a PERFECT circle. And yet in our minds…. Plato 101. Not saying he’s insight is the last word, but over time worth listening to. At least I think so.

      • Leland James

        Whoops. I read your comment on Plato wrong. Too used to off-the wall criticism. I apologies. You were saying exactly the opposite of how I read. My mistake. My comment was for others, too often, not you. I will be more careful.

      • Geoffrey Smagacz

        Leland, I really like your poem. I was thinking there might be some actual literary term called “malkin rhyme,” which I couldn’t find. Though I could find the definition of “malkin,” the meaning of which matches your theme.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What a Halloween treat – The title “Plato’s Pumpkin” is the perfect lure to stanzas rich in pumpkin musings. I particularly love the line: “The Perfect Pumpkin’s ghost within us calls” – what a deliciously haunting thought. I also love the atmospheric “All Hallows’ Rune” with all the weird and wondrous pictures it conjures. Thank you!


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