Think how beautiful we were to start with,
clear as glass. How impossible to part with,
stillness was a rope we tangled round
our mothers’ hearts. In sleep we made no sound.
Come close the flower says and we come close,
close enough to lift, cup and smell the rose,
breathe in a perfume deep enough to find
language for it, and finding none, unwind
the rope back to a time before we knew
what we know now. When every word was true
and roses smelt divine. What went wrong?
Long before the breath of a cradle song.
Like a rose we slept in the morning sun.
Each vein a small blue river, each eyelash shone.
She held one up, twirling it in her hand
as if to show me how the world began
and ended in perfection. I was stunned.
How could she make a rose so woebegone,
couldn’t silk stand stiff? And how could a child,
otherwise convinced of her mother’s taste,
know what to think? It’s overblown, she smiled,
I love roses when they’re past their best.
Overblown roses, the words ran in my head,
round and round till my eyes could see afresh,
could see way beyond their years: where a petal
clings to a last breath; where my mother’s flesh
and mine, going the same way, may still
be seen as beautiful, if these words are said.