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.