“Roses” a poem by Ellen Bass


Four roses drinking from a blue vase.

The first one I name Moment of Gladness,

the second, Wresting Beauty from Fear.

All year I watched my beloved disappearing, the sweet fat

of her hips, her laughter, her will,

as though a whelk had drilled through her shell,

sucked out the flesh. Death woke me each morning

with its bird impersonation. But now she has cut

these Clouds of Glory and a honeyed musk sublimes

from their petals, veined fine as an infant’s eyelids,

and spiraling like any embryo—fish, snake or human.

And she has carried them to me, saturated

in the colors they have not swallowed,

the blush and gold, the razzle-dazzle red. Riven

from the dirt to cleave here briefly.

And now, as though to signify our fortune,

a tiny insect journeys across the kingdom

of one ivory petal and into the heart

of the blossom. O, Small Mercies sliced

from the root. I listen

as they sip the blue water.



–Ellen Bass

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