A ROSE FOR HER SISTER

She takes the garden shears with her,
Long handles, sharp blades

Crops burn in the Caucasus.
Aurora Borealis shimmers,
Streaming lilac over Chicago.
The irradiated night sky.

She steps lightly into the cool the green
The glisten of dew on the spindle grass

Monsoons river down in Arizona,
Red sand sweeps over the rushes of the Camargue,
Through Soliac and the Medoc,
Howling up the River Tyne,
and drifting into the narrow streets of Hartlepool,
over the wide wide stone walls.

She breathes in the morning air
Silt of shadow, breeze of light

Power crashes in Dubuque,
Fires burn in Anchorage in Norilske
Flames rush, herds of severed wings
In towards Bergen.
Trees fold. Rocks heave, crack and melt.

Sweet emphatic click of a garden gate
Bloom of dawn against the sky
She stops in the light of dawn

In the streets of Seattle Memphis Chicago:
Crowds loot, steeped in rage to the lash,
Blind and dreaming in rage:
They shatter windows, burn cars
Long into the night.

Soft crush of spring grass bends
Under her brown-laced walking shoes
She walks to the end of the garden.

In Bogota Manta Sao Paolo
They rush blind down shuttered streets,
Severed souls, blood they rage
By the hundreds and by the thousands
Blood they rage

And the slant shiver of leaves
Catches her eye, her eye dazzles
In the greenish light

In Mumbai Rio Miami Luanda.
Brush of death. Death shifts, shifts
Marking the passage of agony
After agony after agony.
The dying lie in cots, alone.
Alone they drown in fear

She sees a flicker of colour
Nestled in behind a single leaf
Glancing out in a haze of green

Teams of boys, booted military
Roam the streets in Washington, AR-15s at the hip.
Teams of police and national guard, booted military
Swarm the streets in Seattle Portland
AR-15s at the hip.

A shy brush of pink glows on
The fine sinuate edges
Of nestled butterfly wings:
A rose.

Facebook, Amazon, Google: burn.
Skeletal husks of Audis Porsches BMWs: burn
Brazil: burns. Trees fold and sink
In blooms of ash.

Petals open, unfolded to the sun
A single stem, a cherished leaf
Chiseled against the sky

Towering blocks of cement
Trap and hold the sluggish breath of heat.
Sixty-eight degrees in Bobigny.
Tongues of fire skate down streets,
Streets of fire, and leap up concrete steps.

She extends the shears
And clips the stem below
A node, below a thorn like a tiny
Green incisor or claw.

The dying choke in the stink of acrid air
Trapped in windowless apartments,
Concrete walls, burning air
Wolves of wind howl through Soho
Shearing teeth, yellow eyes

She holds the rose lightly
In her fingers and carries it
Inside to the blue-tiled kitchen
A black cat a saucer of milk

The old and unfed die unwashed and unwanted
Their lungs dissolve in algae blooms
Their hearts wither into loneliness.

She slips the rose into a crystal vase
Of fresh water. Carries it into the
Sitting room.

The stricken carry out their beloved dead.
They drag them livid down the streets
And leave them to swell and rot
On black rivers of tarmac that bubble in the heat
Too many to bury, too few to dig the graves.

Her sister is sitting on the pink overstuffed sofa,
Ankles crossed, a cup of tea on the side table.
A fine china cup. Darjeeling tea.
She is staring at the drawn curtains.
As if there is nothing beyond them.

Crowds stampede, they burn
In streets of blood,
They scrape their teeth on blistering hands
Their feet scorch the tarmac
Feet on fire wolves of wind

Her sister places the vase on the round
Mahogany table beside the couch.
“First rose in bloom,” she says.

Ancient Sequoias shudder,
Collapse round hearts of ember
Dust rolls across fields
Fallen rain of ash

They watch the rose as if it is a rare and
Unpredictable beast, a unicorn, or a hippogryph
That might spring out of its vase at any moment
And begin to dance.

About the Poem

This poem is about the threat of climate change and insurrection in the USA. What inspired this poem is the fire in Colorado, the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrections, as well as the fires and heat dome in Canada. It is also about our denial in the face of these threats.

About the Author

Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto. Until recently she was a literacy instructor for adults. Now retired, she enjoys walking, reading books, rereading books, and writing.

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