The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Lyn Lifshin

For the Roses

I think of her watching the
last rose petals on a

day like today, say deep
August, browning like
an old rubber doll
she might have left
in an attic in Canada.
I think of her pressing
skin against glass, a sense
of summertime falling,
that sense of fall
that Sylvia Plath
wrote of. Or maybe some
freeze frame of what
is going, moving on.
I see her pale arms,
sea mist velvet jeans
hugging hips that
never will not be boyish.
In the wind, gone
voices move close
to her cheek bones. In
this frame she could be in
a fancy 30's gown. Some
thing is raw, some thing
is broken. It has to be
a full moon
etching black water.
She has to know that
from what is torn
and scarred, some
thing almost too
exquisitely beautiful
is already stirring,
some thing dark
as coal becoming
diamond, insistent,
dying to be born

For the Roses

Sometimes I think of her
as a wild foal, hardly
touching down in prairie
glass, Saskatewan. Or a
sea nymph, her gaze
glued to the deepest
emerald wave, a Silkie
luring men she can't stay
with long. There she
is, on a seaweed jeweled
rock, her songs, ribbons
of melancholy lassoing you,
pulling on your heart.
Some say Bessie Smith
left even or especially good
men to have something
to make her songs
burn the hottest blues. I
think of Joni knowing
what can't stay, what is so
broken it catches the
light like torn bottles
the ocean's turned
to sea glass jewels, that
what dissolves
behind you in the rear
view mirror haunts,
knife- like as her trees,
slashes of wild paint
shivering in a naked row,
such exquisite beauty
in wreckage

For the Roses

I wore Tea Rose and
often a black rose
in my hair that summer,
symbol of freedom,
a nod to the White Rose,
the German girl who
protesting the Nazis,
gave her skin, her lips
and heart, her life. I was
flying coast to coast
to read, coming back
to an alone house. Named
for the rose, for a aunt
adventurous as Joni,
who danced in flames,
I dressed in rose. Deborah
of the roses. The stories
about her whispered by
grown ups behind stained
glass doors. Who wouldn't
expect roses in my poems?
White rose, Bulgarian
rose. When I walked thru
airports with a white
rose from Allen Ginsberg
everyone whispered, "roses."
But it was the rose scent
perfuming the air form my
body. You could almost
hear, as even now I can
almost feel the one who
touched me on that
coast, what Joni heard
in the wind, the end
of, the chilly now,
the last face to face

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