Poem with a Slur and a Pun in It

We should admire Rambler roses,
so resilient their vines green what was bare

ground in a single season, then scale up
and overtake trees, strangle whole canopies,

if we can stand our own sort.
And prize Redbreast sunfish,

that flash a brilliant blood color. They breed
in streams native trout cannot survive now

because the water is hot, because the shade
was bush-hogged away. Though some among us

have named the plants that fill in after a clear cut
“nigger pines,” we are the most tolerant

of species. Which is to say, where such a kind
succeeds, nothing else can.

Rose McLarney has published two collections of poems, Its Day Being Gone (Penguin Books, 2014) and The Always Broken Plates of Mountains (Four Way Books, 2012). Its Day Being Gone was a 2013 National Poetry Series winner. She has been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and Warren Wilson College; and won the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry and Alligator Juniper’s 2011 National Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in publications including The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Missouri Review, Green Mountains Review, and dozens of other journals. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University, and the Poetry Editor of The Southern Humanities Review.