Roses

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’s most recent book is Like a Beggar. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches in Pacific University’s MFA program.

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