An insightful poet and photographer, George Jisho Robertson, who lives in London, England, posted a sweet set of rose photographs on Facebook, with many of the flowers captured chiaroscuro, their pastel colors contrasting with rich, verdant leaves of the rosebushes. George likes to blur parts of pictures and some of the artistically transformed photos are striking, appearing more transient and poetic than the real blossoms. (Other photos, changed into black and white, remind me of the portraits of the deceased on their tombstones, found in old cemeteries in Europe - no, I do not like those monuments of the dead).
The photo included here, of a "Chicago Peace" rose covered with raindrops (or, rather, as the case may be, drops of water from the sprinklers), looks like candied confection, a marzipan. It is delicate and pale, but it is not from misty England. I took it in my garden in Southern California, and posted in an album of 48 rose photos, called Rose and Roses, on my website.
A red "Mr. Lincoln" rose, with round water droplets spaced regularly along the edge of petals, reminded me of notes of music and I used that photo as a label for my "Chopin with Cherries" blogs. Other roses I saw through the lenses of my camera were completely covered in droplets of rain, shining like polished crystals or diamonds. My rain roses of the spring.
None of these roses, neither those in George's photographs, nor even those that are fading in the mellow fog of English countryside, have the tell-tale signs of Southern California heat: petals scorched by sunlight, shrivelling as they open. In the summer, all luscious, opulent blooms bear those heat marks. Their demise starts from the edges.
Seeing their struggles, one becomes mindful of transience and of the manifold and futile efforts we make to protect ourselves from our untimely demise - anti-wrinkle creams and lotions, injections, peels and masks... If all else fails, a lot of make-up. True, our lifespans exceed those of roses, but the efforts to transcend time are futile, all in vain. Inevitably, we'll fade away, just like these sun-singed roses!
You can see more scorched roses in my Rose and Roses album. The photo reproduced here was taken during the Station Fire, when all the mountains around were burning and the powdery white and gray ash kept falling down on my garden for weeks. There is an intense beauty in those last moments of a dying flower, don't you think? Like fireflies we dazzle in the summer, at dusk.
For the cover of a new edition of my first poetry book, Rose Always - A Court Love Story, which I was just inspired to revise, I picked what could be called a "royal rose"- bedecked in all its jewels of dewdrops and water reflecting the morning light. In contrast with the previous editions of this novella in verse, that featured up to 50 photographs of multi-colored roses from my garden and the Rose Parade, I decided to only use the dark red ones that have the texture of velvet or are lined with delicate veins like human skin. Astounding.
I thought roses.
I thought rich, velvet blossoms.
I thought a red rainbow
from deep crimson to delicately pinkish.
The secret was underground
where the roots sustain
the multi-hued orgy of sensuous allure –
flowers opening to dazzle and fade.
The strength of the rose
is invisible – you see the blush
of seduction in each leaf and petal,
You admire their charms.
Yet, you care for what’s out of sight,
not for the obvious.
I thought your love.
I thought how you adore me.
I went deeper down to the source.
The rose, Sappho’s lightning
of beauty, breathes love,
laughs at the wind and wonders.
The mystic rosebush dances,
crowned with the royal
garland of fire.
The revisions of my book were quite substantial and required a withdrawal of the previous versions. As I explained in the preface to the new edition: "The original version, woven from lyrical poems and dramatic court excerpts, inexorably ended in a tragedy, implied by the focus on the vicious circle of crime, depression, and alienation. . . The agglomeration of literary tropes of love, with a multitude of quotations and allusions, counterbalanced the weight of darkness, with a glimmer of hope appearing at the very end. Yet, it was only a glimmer. In the three years since the book’s publication, the tragic mood has lifted. Darkness is no longer inevitable. A new hope arises from a slow process of transformation, searing experiences, and deepened self-knowledge. The spiritual evolution will continue after crossing the turning point on an ascending path of gradual enlightenment. The toxic shame and self-destruction are replaced by the quiet persistence of caring and forgiveness."
The transition is marked by some newly added poems, such as the Rose Window (found in the Valentine's Day blog), and the Ready to Wear, copied below (and earlier published in our local community paper, the Voice of the Village). I published this poem in the revised book without its title, in accordance with the volume's structure of 85 numbered lyrical poems, and 24 "lettered" (with Greek alphabet letters) excerpts from the story. The novella unfolds in stages: Wishing (Annunciatio), Seeing (Revelatio), Knowing (Dilectio), Feeling (Consolatio) and Being (Redemptio). The sections still feature paraphrases of actual court records that documented the circular flow of one tragic life, in and out of jail. But they are enveloped in and transformed by poetry. It may turn out, at the end, that the circle of crime and punishment may be broken... In my book, this miraculous deed is done by roses.
Ready to Wear
I’m dressing you in roses
so you don’t have to wear
the heavy sweatpants, block letters
across your thigh – PRISONER.
Scarlet blossoms are prettier
than the orange jumpsuit
and shackles on the way
to the courthouse.
Sheltered by poetry
you will not have to hide
in lies, deceptions,
color your hair black,
become an enigma
The blanket I wove
will protect you
from spurious rage
unneeded when the locket
of prayer opens
in an offering to the Unseen.
You cannot escape
His presence. Transparent,
opaque, you will blossom
after the light’s blade
cuts the bonds that trapped you
in the cycle of un-forgiveness.
Some of the original "rose" and "love" poems were included in this blog to celebrate Valentine's Day with a reflection on the nature of love, spanning a rainbow, from eros to charity. I tried to capture the essence of loving defined both as a feeling and an act. Thousands of poets and writers did that before me. Lyricists of country songs still do that, but "real" artists and creators of "high art" look upon the subject of love with disdain, as if new expressions of ancient and timeless romantic ideas were somehow found unworthy of a serious literary effort. Lucky me, than, that I am not serious. (Only by being entirely non-serious about myself, can I stay alive). For this abandonment of love and roses, you may blame post-modern irony and ironists if you want, or Adorno with his declaration that poetry after the ravages of the Holocaust is dead...
We can be dead with the dead, or alive with the roses, the choice is ours.
"What is Love? The Valentine's Day Reflections"
Love After Love: Poems For Valentine's Day
Look for the 2011 revision of Rose Always - A Court Love Story on Lulu.com.
The Rose and Roses Album was posted in October 2010.
All photos and poetry (c) 2008-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk.