Saturday, 12 August 2017


Roses are the topic this week! They come high on the list of flowers that I like, along with iris and gerbera. What gives the rose the edge over others in the boquet in my estimation is their delicious scent - and I'm talking about home-grown organic roses here, not hothouse blooms from some euro-polytunnel or those flowers grown in and flown in from Kenya. Imported roses might look good but they have no smell and the means of production is frequently ecologically unsound (all those fertilisers leaching into the water table).

A perfect rose, with its complex array of petals, fascinating gradations of colour and heady aroma is truly a thing of beauty. Love the rose.

It possibly has more symbolism attached to it than any other form of flora or fauna. The red rose is the adopted emblem of my adopted county (Lancashire) as is the white rose the emblem of that lot on the other side of the Pennines - and indeed a series of battles was fought in the late 15th century that bore the name War of the Roses on account of the main protagonists.

My take on the theme has given rise to not one but two poems this week. The first, Roses, is by Billy Collins, a favourite poet of my dear departed friend Christopher (Christo) Heyworth. Billy Collins is a former Poet Laureate of the USA (2001-2003) and this poem is taken from his 2011 collection Horoscopes For The Dead. The second is a composition of my own in which I've tried to give the idea of roses a somewhat lateral literal twist. (It always amuses me to hear people drop 'literally' into conversations.) What you need to know about the protagonists of Twomb, Alec and Lisa, is they are also varieties of rose.

'Alec' and 'Lisa' entwined symbolic above the grave
First, then, this wonderfully observed and wry piece by Billy Collins, written on a visit to England a few years ago...

In those weeks of midsummer
when the roses in gardens begin to give up,
the big red, white, and pink ones -
the inner, enfolded petals growing cankerous,
the ones at the edges turning brown
or fallen already, down on their girlish backs
in the rough beds of turned-over soil,

then how terrible the expressions on their faces,
a kind of was it all really worth it? look,
to die here slowly in front of everyone
in the garden of a bed-and-breakfast
in a provincial English market town,
to expire by degrees of corruption
in plain sight of all the neighbours passing by,

the thin mail carrier, the stocky butcher
(thank God the children pay no attention),
the swivelling faces in the windows of the buses,
and now this stranger staring over the wall,
his hair dishevelled, a scarf loose around his neck,
writing in a notebook, writing about us no doubt,
about how terrible we look under the punishing sun.

                                                          Billy Collins

To finish, after a little judicious last-minute pruning, your Saturday blogger's dew-fresh offering...

Side by side in death as in life
here lie interred a husband and wife,
Alec T. and Lisa Floribunda Rose.

The red and the white, for his verse and her prose,
entwine now symbolic, a sheltering bower
of protective thorn and commemorative flower

over this tomb of two writers of note:
she, the short-listed novelist who wrote
thinly-disguised tales of their marital strife; 

he, whose poems could cut like a knife,
the short-sighted fiery poet, her foil.
Worms compost through their mortal coils,

enriching the soil in this communal tomb,
make of their burial a friable womb
which nurtures both roses, the white and the red.

So despite the fact Alec and Lisa are dead,
their essence lives on in spike and in petal,
rose-blossoming peace after decades of battle.

Thanks for reading. Love one another, S ;-)


Adele said...

Christo loved Billy Collins. As always your own poem is full of beautiful, imaginative words and rhythm. There is such patience in your construction and bitter sweet humour.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about Christopher passing. It was a nice touch to dedicate your blog to him. I'm sure he would have liked that. The poems are great, both of them. Thank you Steve.

Anonymous said...

Love your Tomb poem :)

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above comments, a beautifully weighted blog and two great poems.