Feasted Roses

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.