- Here Come the Roses, and: Ora Pro Nobis
Here Come the Roses
Here I am again on my knees in the dirt. Talking to flowers. Talking to the weeds.Sweat pouring down my face like tears. There are worse ways to go.
94 96 99 Day after day for months. And no rain.Ten drops early this morning. Next to nothing.The trees drop their leaves like yellow coins. In the countryside the crops are burning.
But here come the roses, blooming by the bushelfuldespite the heat that pinwheels their petals back and clips short their days. [End Page 78]
Pink Portrait and Country Dancer and Spring Morning,Parfait, all lipstick and cream. Oklahoma shedding red velvet.Neon orange Voodoo atop its long rip of thorns. Fourth of July's ruffled cockades. White Medallion.Lighting up this neighborhood of sizzled lawns and wilting bushes.
This is what the bulldozed and burned groves of trees say.The paved-over farms.The poisoned air and water talking.
Our story's broken.All I can do is piece it together.
I write it out. I erase it. I write it again.Coralville, Iowa. Midmorning. A long summer of drought. 2005.The birds have stopped flying. [End Page 79]
Ora Pro Nobis
Morning. A sunless, grey December day.Dark confetti of starlings fluttering onto the power lines along Interstate 380. A black paragraph, broken,unreadable.
My sister, the nun, is dead.We're on our way to the airport to fly to Boston to bury her.My thoughts walk in old shoes.
My sister, The Great Complainer, vexed her whole long life by the imperfections of this world.Our imperfections. Yours and mine.Once in love with a red-haired boy, she married God instead, whose candle never flickers. [End Page 80]
Perhaps that's what her saints and martyrs were. Our great complainers. Glorious scolds.Stinging us to madness until we stoned them to death or burnt them at the stake or drove them railing into the desert.
Plain in her open casket. Not serene. Tidy. No martyr, she."She isn't there," my eldest daughter said. Like the husk of the locust after the locust has gone.We've all seen them. Accidentally. Clinging to the bark of a tree.Perfect, thumb-sized sarcophagi, translucent and empty. The grinding, loud song gonethat fired so many shimmering summer afternoons. Or like this vacant wren's nest, blown from our cedars by yesterday's bitter wind.Less than a handful. A weave of little grasses, trailing some child's lost, iridescent, party streamer. [End Page 81]
It's 3 AM. I take my consolations where I can. In the winter dark, in the steady breathing of my sleeping wife. In the humming of my cat, Mr. Tunes- small, solitary, grey singer, blessing the water in his bowl. [End Page 82]
Robert Dana's most recent books of poetry are The Morning Of The Red Admirals, (Anhinga Press, 2004); Summer (Anhinga Press, 2000); and Hello, Stranger (Anhinga Press, 1996). He is currently the Poet Laureate of Iowa.