A Day That Perishes

White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.
                                For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,

                                       they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
                                                        by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,

                                grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
roses survive
winter drifts, the melt in April, August

           and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
                                      walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.

~Donald Hall “Old Roses” from The Selected Poems of Donald Hall. 

The lily has a smooth stalk,
  Will never hurt your hand;
But the rose upon her brier
  Is lady of the land.

There’s sweetness in an apple tree,
  And profit in the corn;
But lady of all beauty
  Is a rose upon a thorn.

When with moss and honey
  She tips her bending brier,
And half unfolds her glowing heart,
  She sets the world on fire.

~Christina Rossetti “The Rose”

We are continually overflowing
toward those who preceded us,
toward our origin, and toward
those who seemingly come after us.

It is our task to imprint this
temporary, perishable earth
into ourselves so deeply,
so painfully and passionately,
that its essence can rise again
invisibly, inside us.

~Rainer Maria Rilke from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

There is a rose bush that still blooms decades later on the farm where my grandparents raised their family, next to the walkway where the house once stood. Overwhelmed with weeds and blackberry vines, it still sets my heart on fire to witness its stubborn persistence, thriving through trauma, abandonment, loneliness and adversity. No one comes to water it in summer drought, and though frozen during ice-covering winters, it thrives again in spring with leaf and bud and blossom.

The vulnerable, perishable, and beloved seed will rise again, imperishable.

…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1Peter 3:4


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2 thoughts on “A Day That Perishes

  1. Thank you Emily.

    Are any of these roses pictured from your grandparents old place? I would love to see a picture. Also be nice to see a picture of the house if you have pictures from the old days! Oregon?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Near Anacortes, Washington – these are not roses from that old home place – all the old farm buildings and the house have been torn down. I’ll need to see if I can find a photo of that farm house – it is now over fifty years ago since it was sold!


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