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White Mind and Roses

ISSUE:  Winter 1992

Nobody’s (not Rilke’s even, whose
shade doesn’t sleep), they are all
their own (are they a they?—this 

shameless abundance that grows
most in the whirlpools of its smell
till the whole rosebush was never green,

the memory of green only a moving ground
for famous white explosions, flashes
of power to perish.) Blooming’s overall

a kind of time, a summerful of
outburst, a collective noun; and yet
a trained eye catches what

so few would wish to hold: the fate
of the individual, a quicker course
in explicated radiance; it’s both the lover

and the source of light; it’s both the seizer
and the liberator of
sublunary zones in men. Then having done

its utmost and
invented us, with our
rose-loving eyes and noses,

having overdone it, wasted billions on
an animal that notices the flowering and not
the flow, rich well beyond the registers

of narrow rubric, it
begins in the very act
to turn—subtly at first, a hint or two

of yellow that betrays
only ourselves to ourselves—then suddenly
it’s brown all over, petal upon leaf and leaf upon

the stinging wood (which once was fraught with
whitest eponymity and now, ubiquitously brown,
is no less rose). . . .

Was it the whole we were so busy studying
we missed the hurtful quick particulars?
The answer’s no, as long as bed and bud

and root and rot go unremarked
like everything beneath our notice going
to make a being be, in time. . . . There are darks to undo

all our ignorance, even the willfulness of sense,
that idée fixe whose urge is mainly to outdo
the other (shifting) five. But can a dark

undo our dread? When we’re asleep is there
a murderer at large? What passes all day for our ghost,
at night is it otherwise? Inside is it red?


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