Rose

Katherine Traynham
From: Can You Come Here Where I Am? Poetry and prose of seven breast cancer survivors E.M. Press, 1998

My mother gave me a rose for my birthday.
A tea rose, Chrysler Imperial, blood red.
I planted it in the front yard
So I would see it, coming and going.
I'd just gotten married.
It bloomed every year, the most beautiful reds
On eighteen inch stems
(From June to September).

My mother gave me a rose for my birthday.
John Kennedy whites, pale and creamy and lush.
I planted it in the front yard
So I would see it all summer long.
She told me white was for memory.
Grandmother was gone now.
It bloomed every year. I fed it, and the red
(From June to September).

My mother gave me a rose for my birthday.
The year after she died.
The year after my cancer.
I started in the front door as summer began.
It was May, and no roses came so early.
The white one had bloomed, all of a sudden that night.
A single white rose on an eighteen inch stem,
Even though I'd ignored them
(Last June to September).

My mother gave me a rose for my birthday
The year I stopped loving roses.
The year after my chemo.
I saw its perfection despite my neglect,
And though I have never put stock in such signs
I took it inside and put it in a crystal vase
And showed my daughter what I didn't believe:

This rose shouldn't be here, in May, as I said.
(They bloom here from June to September).
You feed them and tend to the canes when they're done.
I put them in the front yard, you know,
So you can see them coming and going.
And the John Kennedy white, - that's for memory.

My mother gave me this rose for my birthday.

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