ASHES OF ROSES
The early 19th Century rolls over
in its sleep and a carriage
goes by. Who is that
woman in the flowered hat?
She is quite beautiful for someone
dead these two-hundred years,
don’t you think?
The sky droops with expensive
luggage disguised as clouds.
Tall ships arrive and sail
whenever wind and tide will serve.
It is the era
of glimmering wishfulness
amongst the servant class,
the era of boot blacks and fallen
women, of which the woman
in the carriage just
about to disappear into the crowd,
is surely no example. In fact
someone has been thinking
lovingly of her
his whole life, and still
the carriage proceeds and turns
down Moody Street
toward the sea
and this is all anyone
except the nameless woman
ever knows about the hour,
the day, the deep color
of her solitary
or the smile of the man
who was not waiting at the pier
to “gather her”
in his arms.
And yet, now
she has been imagined, she may
belong in a photograph,
a kind of arrival,
in someone’s attic, a whole
packet of love letters, tied with ribbon,
lying beside her image
or clasped in her invisible hands.
Doesn’t it seem
she is thinking how very much
she detests the man
who will never meet her now,
how she wishes to thrust
into him the shapely
sharpened fingers of a note
that will wound and wound?
How worried we all are that her name
smelling vaguely of lavender
may be hidden inside our own names
or in the pasts of names inscribed
in the dust of all that was never
accomplished or forgiven or desired
in passing, on this very street.
And how very strange
to see her again. And now, again,
though we were watching, she
When I sit in a blue chair beside a window and listen
to the ravens discoursing upon time again
and who owns it and where it has run on alone by that
narrow river red with spillage from the mines east of us;
and when the small glass-like frogs turn from brown to green
with that look of malicious surprise you sometimes see
on grocery clerks when it turns out you are short of cash; and
when you suddenly know the shadow bending down by the china
cabinet may well be your mother trembling as she reaches
to touch one particular tilted and delicate cup, it is easy
to consider death potentially mythological and disguised
as a screen door slamming and slamming in your dream
of that nearly forgotten and beautiful house
with its coughing furnace and light leaking in and out like a burglar
who has broken into his own rooms again; when sitting as I do
like that, it is possible to imagine coming back again
and again from death, full of love and distress, furiously calm.
And is it the soul, at last, sitting there almost alone?