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Dear Robert


ISSUE:  Spring 1997

Your roses are blooming in a basket
hung on the rail of my deck. I water them
each morning and wait for rain to take over,
if possible, but I enjoy the job, something
new to me who have been growing books,
fleurs du mal mainly.

Did you intend by these miniature roses
as a gift on my eightieth birthday
that I could look forward to beauty
and abundance in my life? The flowers
never cease to rise out of the buds.
Where one rose fades, another rises
to take its place. It falls to the deck
but to be admired and enjoyed, so long
as it’s the rose and only the rose
that is red as blood upon the deck.

But what is this plant saying, as I believe,
in your hidden message—that I am destined
to live the rest of my life among roses
and that my life will give way to yet another
life on the stem of my poems, their roots
deep in the soil of my being, that poems will
emerge from poems read and laid aside,
giving birth to yet others in my absence?
I hope so. Why else would I have wanted
to continue as I was living, in crisis?

You know, you know very clearly, as only is
possible in sympathy, because like mine
your life has its peculiar context: dark father,
pallid mother and a limitless horizon
of earth and sky from which nothing arose
to guide you on to a path. War brought you
to recognize that to live meant
that under all and any circumstance
not to submit.

You grew your poems of love and death.
The roses you sent are flowers
of your effort to sustain yourself,
to tell me I too have survived.
Flowers are the compliment to give
each other and to enjoy, to attend a rose
in its receptive soil.

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