Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May: Requiem of the Wild Rose


My blossomed summer approaches in June.

My giantess hands hold the wild rose bush,

as it plumbs the live earth with its tap root,

what I have planted no swine will uproot.

Here velvet petals fall about, supine,

as I collect them in my silken bowl,

my face, shadowed, by navy linen cowl,

the word-sketched lace of lost Europe sublime.

The potpourri of nations gathered here

beneath my careful hands—seeds, wrinkled, dry,

petals on the day will, vacuous, shrink,

the audience obliged, their heads raise near,

to taste a smell so sweet, their heads bowed, cry:

at perfume on the brink, in rosa-pink.


Who is Rhonda? the populace might ask,

as my rose bushes divide the white sun,

as my broad shoulders held trowels like guns,

and garden muscle rippled at the task.

I had dark coarse hair like a horse’s mane,

and hands like a man’s, that dug in the earth:

this is my haven, lest you swallow first

the fruit of rose hips without noticing

who grew them there for your china teacup,

who first held the seedlings, and trimmed to thorn,

who in all right gathered the burr rose buds

in all their burgundy glory, starlets—

kicked at my resigned brow like newly born—

and diva-wide leaves curtseyed to no one.


It was no easy task not to be feared,

so I kept to myself in the garden

of wild roses, the play-land of pardon

where the pine tree’s imagined guilt is cleared.

Every plant has a purpose to the mind,

and kept in bowls, they resonate on dew,

they reverberate to heal and be new

bandages to the poor, renewal-kind.

These remedies, gentle, innocuous,

have glass droppers in apothecary,

with labels in brown, line the referenced shelves.

I am well equipped, for the sensitive:

bottle by bottle, steeped in dark brandy,

every book about these valued plants sells.


To write each word in scrawl, I am resigned;

I bow my head in sacred solitude.

Hands reach out as if blind, similitude

to those in the dark and shackled, confined.

I shall be their pale hands and fruitless feet:

medicine, Socrates in a black slug

re-creates their hard skulls from languid mud,

ravishing the frozen heart’s rhythmic beat.

Here in this dirt, I am forever plant

of greenest, verdant, rain-soaked, flow’ring park:

there is a branch reaching out, magenta

on drying spruce where now I languish, rant,

wailing as wild rose, petals fall to bark

in falling dark, covering stigmata.


Rising harmonic line ascends as shrill

as woodwinds can raise the dead from their graves,

as heavenward the dusty lift their face,

their lost, wayward fuchsia mouths have their fill.

For every born child—fair with marked face—

at this burden, has hung their heads in shame,

resigned to what they carry as their fame,

and cowered before others in disgrace.

As adults, they go on, and did forget

the notions they, as children, entertained

in innocence at some brown misplaced mole.

Where hunch-backed crows cawed out at their regret;

beneath the witch-like trees, inside the rain,

honey-haired lads went on without a chore.


But I, Rhonda, lifted the rock water

to the pink rose tree on the scull-wood knoll,

poured from my Ethiopian-black bowl,

temple of apothecary fathers. 

Here there is only a taste of rose milk,

what is pressed and left from the dead teacher

who made the path through this tangled ether

modernity, shoes the doctor would fill.

Bach is veritable god, the creatures

cried in unison, no leaf, nor flower

unnoticed. All nature, his remedy,

and his clean, clinical, boyish features

crafted, yielding of his one shy power

to graft the wild-blown branch—calamity.

I, Rhonda, stand tall in last eve’s twilight.

I am genuinely liked by no one,

I am incongruous; the last bold thorn

of the wild rose, in early summer, fights

as a flock of geese adapts to the winds.

I remind my patrons with solemn truce

of calloused hand’s shaping nature’s rose-puce,

of how a strong woman never rescinds,

of an old lament—song from long ago:

not to be afraid of your own thorns, sharp

where they grow. Croon the antiquated runes,

for this is how the wild rose rampant sows,

this is her dedicated music, harp

that sings aloud; with her digits, she prunes.


Emily Isaacson


All photos used by permission.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Requiem of Astolat

In a grey tower by the window’s side,

Astolat, heavy stone beneath her feet,

feathered in the night, sheaves of yellow wheat,

flaccid over the hillsides, singing bide,

townspeople, toward happy, ringing stare

at the dark windows of mirrored Elaine,

at the rose petals, blood-red, falling plain

on the remnants of her red fragile hair,

where she combs like water, reddened tresses, 

where she winds her way accursed, alone,

whilst the mirror would crack a lovely woman:

skirts drag the floor of her linen dresses,

and her blue, the scent of the river foam;

underneath the laurels, she rested then.


Shrouds of a petal, nuanced in shadow,

she wafts slender; as young as she is old.

Upon the ramparts stretched like blackened mould

across stagnant old rock water shallows:

the fingers of the ancient world as sleet

as they were sunshine, the tulips, scarlet,

and the weavers barter on the market,

rumbling verse endowed upon the shod feet

of the villagers, and their wooden dance.

For the curse unnamed had turned them almost

stone, rendering arms dilapidated,

crumbling, creeping across the encampments

of all damp England and its lonely host.

She sees only the mirror’s reflection.


The visionary gift has resided

within the pangs of her ivory breast;

what she sees waxes poetic at best,

elm over bluebell in dell presided.

What she fears thunders in the howling night

beyond the castle’s rigid oaken door,

preys the broken mind to tiger-rent floor,

takes the remnants of joy in its jaws’ height.

There is little peace here within the walls.

There, flickering, the summer light’s taxing

call upon the hard heart to, softened, turn;

there, a hollow uttering down the halls,

of guttering candles, drenched in beeswax;

call upon beating wing to ceaseless, churn.


Each novice now will turn their hem-stitched backs,

and buds shut tight will weep as I did weep,

at the glory of this palatial-steep

shame of the womanhood, 'tis brittle lack.

For four and twenty years a girl is made,

and for a fine-brushed head, she glossy shone,

her talents lay in making him a home,

across a river he would gladly wade

for the love of her one candle, win her.

He would hold her spindle in the darkened

sun, and she would spin by the light of moons.

There was one autumn garment left on earth,

and its coated threads engulfed its spartan

beginnings, she threw it over a loon.


The magic of the underworld would see

in this act, a sheer immeasurable

moment of genius, for loons durable,

with a coat of metal became money.

The steel efficiency of provisions

made ascension to higher realms duty,

her forehead’s tiara decked in ruby,

in visiting different dimensions.

Yet even yet, he did not love this one,

in all her grey as graphite stone, untoward,

she in her illustrious way, desists,

from writing with her wand of carat gold

upon the castle door his name, behold,

and sinks into the moat, she yet resists.


The goblets have all spilled their wine in prayer,

the sunken table bowed with venison,

inklings of the crimson gown’s unison

with madness: one should have knelt, then wiser.

Icicles in a crown had made winter

solstice decorate convent lake and trees,

with unseeing eyes, she, unpardoned, sees

widened, unfailing beam of the lintel

over the snowy landscape of powder,

subduing her one grace to nameless art,

she is whitened in a wash unduly.

Holding power of the house over her,

making her unable to with him part:

she, in, out, breathes only scandalously.


The dark has hid her, as a cape-robed guide,

as she, in the boat’s stern, will carve her name,

to bear her beaten soul within its frame,

here now upon the calm-strewn river’s side.

Solemn enchantment at the lady fair,

for no other in all England, for love,

is sanctimonious as a pale dove,

with life escaped her last breath, lying there;

she is the pearl of Lancelot, his side

pierced of blood and water, cross-held shield, she

lies lifeless, cold and with lily-white hands,

has felt of still-born rigour, not his bride

but his perfect corpse, mingling water, free

and floats to Camelot of quiet lands.

Emily Isaacson

Photos used by permission
Dedicated to the memory of Ed Suderman

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Debussy's Clair de Lune


I met you in the pale spring afternoon.

I met you on the veranda in March.

Your eyes spoke of small buds and the new lambs,

you brought me a copy of Tennyson.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


Your hands caressed my hands—all their detail,

as your whole life touched my too-broken life,

as daffodils shout their golden rims bright,

while the leather Daphne fragranced my dreams.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


I was diminutive and shy, solemn,

draped in a rocking chair in the sweeping

of terra cotta, morning across cloud,

from sunrise creeping over the mountain,

from the alabaster blossoms weeping,

stealing across the lawn like fingers proud.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


When, in my accent Cape Cod dress, I sit

on evening’s veranda, ivory moon,

a crescent, hangs before the flight of loons,

my soul, in lamb’s soft wool, knits lanolin.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


Iris garden, in quiet pen sketches,

snowdrops, undecorated. . . dreamy hues

kneel on the cobblestones, and worship you

like the early sun, dawn’s gentle stirrings.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


As milky salve, I collect lavender;

cluster by cluster, I peel hyacinth,

crushed within marble mortar with pestle,

for potpourri, with old rose petals, pearls

from a turtle dove. Rain, pattering, rinsed

lilacs, just in time for the tea kettle.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


Ironing doilies by my beeswax’s crest

of candlelight, cotton wick tight-woven.

The night is still-young and at peace, coven

of cottage-core unmarred  as a white dress.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


Ladened by metal sadiron, I pray,

I press on and on into the spring eve.

By the light of my one candle, I weave

the iron to the pianoforte.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.


To Clair de Lune, there’s no distraction now,  

the quarter notes come in blackened whispers.

Melody rises and falls, in this town.

’Fore the day is over you have my vow,

while the small cat preens translucent whiskers,

you will see me in my cream wedding gown.

When you will have loved, then you will have lived.

Emily Isaacson

*This poem is not in a formal sonnet form, but has modified Italian sonnet rhyme schemes and sonnet quatrains with a repeting line. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Journey to Ithaca


This spring when you walk far from your old town,

the blossoms will fall over your coiled nape,

and the rosemary and leaves from the grape

vine, will be crisp and tender underfoot.

May you sail on still waters, from the Seine

to Venice, where your mother gave you birth:

knowing yourself at once, right from the first,

until you find the ship with your own name.

Boarding, to find the distant place you seek,

destination you’ve journeyed from the start,

but don’t neglect the proper journey there

and all the things along the way you’ll need.

The home hidden unknown in your soft heart,

is isle of Ithaca, roving no more.


This summer, as the light streams through the grape

vine, where fruit hangs golden, wily goatherds

counsel you—set out on Ithaca’s road.

When your long fate is written and it’s rare,

no one else will go with you. Asunder,

you walk alone this idyllic thin path:

when you have played resinous aftermath,

the strings are violin, with the thunder

of horses’ hooves, and the dust in your eyes.

Don’t be the one the wild wolves chase behind,

don’t let them hunt you or you are the prey.

It’s Ithaca, in all its lovely sights,

that you, all your life, are searching to find:

that ivory-clothed bride will wed today.


Fall in with the ancient vineyard bees’ hum,

our lives, vanishing, like smoke before dawn,

and combined, our efforts don’t leave us wan,

we leave behind an emperor’s ransom.

Then source the harvest by a godless clock,

when our enemy is bitter late frost

among the grape vines, we keep blithely on:

it is Ithaca we seek and its lock.

With the keys you’ll not be chasing phantoms;

you were crucified a long time ago.

With small forged spheres’ iron, have stamina;

you don’t care if you live or the reasons.

Then the wind will blow ceaselessly hollow,

and you will almost forget Ithaca.


If, by this candle’s light, your heart is warm,

then this winter’s snow has not frozen you

from the journey to Ithaca, and few

have travelled where rovani is worth more

than the destination, your final home.

Is anything more satisfying than

a reward for your work, labour you can

glad eschew for where the wintered vines roam?

Home is where the roasted apples wassail,

and where the hearth is lit, black kettle sings.

What clay road could lead you onward, surging

by way of horse cart, warship, and vessel,

to the isle in the Ionian Sea?

To the isle where Odysseus is king?


The pebbled path and trodden weed have lead

you, to glittering cities vast and bright,

the seas you crossed were thick with limpid salt,

and graveyards in the dead of night glowed red.

Still you continued, pressed on, in white cloth

with pearlesque buttons to the linen ground,

sun in morning light walked bravely through towns,

while the brine met the land with a wide froth.

The horses trod this way before, but now

at their moonlit equestrian reigns sits

a faery with light-struck wings in stardust,

or cupid with twanging bow and arrow,

or a deft angel who can waltz and spin,

with end in sight: Ithaca’s corridors.


From the ancient oracle wafts perfume,

the wine cellars stacked from floor to ceiling,

the library books of shelved majesty,

carpeted garden where white lilies bloom.

You’ll see with binoculars: clear vision’s

only end is to sit down with silvered

hairs shining on your reading head, mustered

courage, to teach the young ’uns from wisdom.

Ithaca is where the bronzed galleon

arrives in a gust of wind, flagrant, fresh,

as melodic score of black olive nears,

with the sideways walk of pink crustacean;

at long last you will take a weary breath

when you arrive, licking the salt from tears.


You will remember, when the years have passed,

not Ithaca’s end, friends, but the travels—

through the dark woods, your children unravelled,

en route to sea lilies lodged in stone cracks.

Gardens of Ithaca, with their kumquats,

violets, crimson grapefruits spelling prose, 

interspersed with wild white Banksia rose,

jasmine, ivy, scarlet pomegranates.

The green cliffs over the sea wore their wealth

of sea birds—the fine Egyptian vulture—

island cypresses rose armoured, snow tipped.

The place to arrive in still of night, stealth

on journey—short as a dream, a flicker—

protecting golden eagle’s flight from cliff.

Emily Isaacson


[image: adobe stock, licensed]

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Requiem of Ophelia



Ophelia by J.W. Waterhouse. General Domain.

Though as fragile as a butterfly’s wing,

and as prone to dust-like constitution . . .

the daisies of the field in profusion,

a star-like innocent voice rose to sing.

There was one ray, through which the sunlight beamed,

there was one meadow, she sat undisturbed,

her child-like hands had never been blistered,

not called to work, but paradise, she seemed.

She sat by the window, with her sewing:

her hands moved back and forth in counterpoint,

their whitely-held countenance was a wand,

conjuring teal magic not her doing.

What in her being she poured out anoints

savoury plate, previously mild sands.


Ophelia was a maid enraptured,

slightest ladybug called her attention,

flight of eagles she made duly mention,

if a bird landing on your hand—captured.

Red hair, threaded with pearls, in minute form

gave license to the braids of yesteryear,

her bright new purple eyes would shed a tear

if she found a hare was sorely tortured.

Her cream-like skin was crystal-dewy smooth

the harsh sun’s rays not dilapidating,

and pierced cloud had shed its clear light downward,

where highlights of her vision not removed,

the storm in her breast not now abating,

fury of her voice resounded onward.


With her frail throat she verbalized discourse,

she pleaded with the dragons of disdain,

and from her vial of juice now dripped a stain,

while she, distracted, remedied remorse.

The perfect loaves dropped from her hands, table

ready to receive them, although not her.

She knew she had no ceremonial

redemption from within; horse in stable

was next saddled to take her far away

to the forests, where she picked hollyhocks,

to the inland river where she would bend

for direction from inner voices late

that would lessen their blue scourge and torment

if she would heed their counsel, to good end.


Humble monarchs of the meadow landed

upon fennel, columbines, pale lily,

converging in wild gardens ’midst the wood

on her lithe and wax-like hands, enchanted.

Here, whispered light-hearted incantations,

for this pillar of stone now breathed into

the stillness of the mortal dawn, imbue

all matter with her voiced lamentations.

She was character of limpid softness

yet the bones of her small frame were rigid,

and each sinew held her dear together.

Her structure composed inert gracefulness

and her darkling eyelashes drew frigid

stares from under townspeople’s brown feathers.


She was both green of the wood, and winter,

the frosted land, both desirous and black

at once, cold and unyielding, giving flack

like an undecorated old spinster.

She both bright-blossomed and fell to the ground,

unlike seasons presiding majestic

over universe and the gavel’s lick

of wide-dealt justice, even deep-founded.

What other wise women maintained, she lost,

as fallen spray of fragrance to ’lil earth

as baskets disperse the wedding flowers,

as wool has fallen prey to powdered moths;

destiny and its dreams traded for mirth,

famine and fear now traded for bowers.


O Ophelia, my love, the sweetness

of the pleasant spring would unduly croon,

with potions that were remedies of moon,

and by your second-sight, your heavy breast

is ribboned by your green watery rest

and lucid rambles as your ship winds ’round

the brambles of infernal stony ground.

Flying straw-like limbs in constancy, drowned,

in earnestness, proper prayer-like anguish

beneath great spreading tree of green-clothed life.

You would mediate between chastity

and fertility, if one outdistance

the other; the craft of poetry, ice

upon the outstretched hands of charity.


Velvet tie that once secured her bonnet

now ties gentle waist to the bottom’s murk

where river nyads dance and aged lurk

to tap her gentil forehead in the net.

Abandoned fish will wander, silver, here,

and children peer beneath the ghostly air,

with their white dresses billowing, with fair

remembrances of her who sat so near.

She, at the paned window sang so sweetly,

she, around her neck, had worn daisy chains,

her hands held life’s grievance like a bouquet.

Still a child in thought, could think so kindly,

now victim with no succor in her pain:

bottom of the glass river’s tourniquet.

Emily Isaacson