In youth I believed in ardor
but not even once in roses,
their showiness too sweet
and hues refined, dainty or unreal,
their lives taxing everyone
with the care they demanded.
Hothouse flowers, a pampered lot,
made for show and selfish delights.
And those thorns.
Who would love a flower
that hurt you, drew blood
when one–quite enamored–reached for it,
and with deep fragrances that lured
the admirer into danger disguised as elegance?
Trillium or marsh marigold beckoned me;
forsythia, tiger lily, cherry blossom, wild violets
and those iris whose drooping, near-translucent petals
hid heavenly wonder, yet held
a tenderness that begged for protection.
But the truth was, how much
the rose bush reflected my life.
All the years I sought magnetic attractions,
cultivated or bound by no rules and thriving.
How much attention staying alive took,
the most desired moments being the most costly.
There were threats of harm amid sumptuousness,
enchantments that became tiny pieces
staining pathways as I slipped away,
just making it out alive, the random beauty in ruins.
It was many bruised roses, too few trilliums.
I still believe in ardor’s mystery
if not now seeking it on purpose.
Roses do grace my life along the edges,
tidy rows that bloom under nurture of other hands.
No longer hunting for what is not there–
there is plenty that is–
I wander among light or weighty scents
and often find rainbows, happy even,
as if I belong here (though ever an outsider),
a ballad seeker and lullaby singer
so perhaps at times useful;
a colorist who fills up days in swirls of ink;
a woman on missions with arms held out
despite sudden punch or cut;
holding fast to beauty while binding wounds
and finding a flurry of petals floating to earth.
They shift in their smallness,
and soften under bare feet to make living
even more than expected,
like random plenty amid austerity.
I can, it seems, now be struck silent by roses.
I cannot, it seems, put aside ardor,
nor it, me.