Feasted Roses

24/3/2020

 

On page 735 of The Norton Anthology 
of English Poetry: Sixth Edition, the words 
‘regaled’ (feasted) and ‘pippins’ (apples), in lines 17 and 18 respectively of William Cowper’s ‘Epitaph on a Hare’, have marginal notes, translating them into modern English. The words ‘feasted/
apples’’ thus appear stacked together, 
surrounded by white space.

 


Tomorrow, her keeper will bury his bones 
under the roses. The food her roses feed on gives them their rich colour, their swooning odour that breathes lasciviously of forbidden pleasures.
Suivez-moi.

 

Angela Carter, ‘The Lady of the House of Love’, 1979

 

 

 

Ever she poses for family portraits,
her darted garments unerringly pressed.
Gardeners toil in patches she stipulates,
cucumber mosaic an infrequent guest.


She picked the divan for its fine filigree,
its unusual ground of blown orange roses.
The bittersweet colours distracted her family,
who could not glare straight, from behind upturned noses.


The house underwent a needful reshuffling
post-separation; it parted the clouds.
Her taste gave some feathers a composite ruffling:
it emptied the nest; it scattered the crowds.

 

The falling was egg-like; yet she arose,
clutching her dignity – shattering pearls
had pelted the house, shredding tulips he chose,
depositing refuse like one of his girls. 


Interior gales ransacked the bric-a-brac 
leavings of work trips, his last fifteen years
spent sowing his wares and his tares into almanacs
spanning the south coast and tea-stained with tears.


The dry, thirsty garden had wept to receive them – 
such succour, such nurture, neglected for weeks. 
Bushes bejewelled themselves, stitching each stem 
with gilt dew, nature festooned like a Greek


statue disclosing its true colours, strange hues
lost to the shadings of sunlight and time. 
Inside she gracefully pulls on her tallest shoes,
patient to inspect each truss, leaf, and vine – 


a period of mourning politely refused – 
pinching her pencil skirt, feeling for failure; 
watering dahlias, never bemused, 
labelling family marginalia.


In earliest mornings she’s given to thinking 
of broken-up women asleep at midday, 
resembling Plath, not straightening tablecloths,
willing their scaffolded hearts: give way!


If a man’s rich cologne, or nosy friend poses
questions which give pause for something to say,
she thinks: crying women feasting on roses,
shifts slightly her weight, and continues her day. 

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