Drowning in roses—

the red bush roses that Inez, the saint
of Santa Ynez Way, planted years ago
in the space between the apartment
building next door and my front yard—

luxuriant roses that unthinking
yard guys working next door hacked
to bits, far from the proper pruning
Inez taught me before she moved

They’re yours now, she said sternly,
as was her way. Take care of them.

And so, when I come out to find
their main stems all but gone (leave
three main stems,
Inez advised),
I felt that I’d let her down, knowing
that new ones will grow long and
skinny from the remaining stubs,
unable to support the weight
of the blossoms.

And sure enough, the leggy stems
now sag into each yard, a glorious
profusion of crimson that should be
growing in their proper bushy shape.

I know what to do: Cut the stragglers,
de-thorn and trim stems, remove
leaflets, take the roses inside and
set them in every vase I can find.

Then give them away—to a couple
walking their dog who happen to be
passing by—Would you like some
roses? I’m drowning in them

gesturing to the lawn strewn with
velvety petals. Delight in the woman’s
surprise as I help her choose some—
careful of the thorns!—for their walk

I deliver a vase to Jeff across the
street who talked to the yard guys
don’t touch the roses!
and another vase to the young
physicians and their toddler son
who live in what used to be Sonya’s
house, where I imagine her majestic
Mr. Lincolns blooming their fool
heads off.

She was the one who delivered,
more than once, a plastic bucket
full of roses to my front porch,
sending me searching for vases
and people with whom I could share
the bounty. How I wish I could
bundle up some of this rosy
magnificence and send it to her,
far away in Portland.

I wonder if Sonya remembers
the abundance that will last
through summer, if Inez is still
living, if they can feel my gratitude
from far away, if they can close
their eyes and summon
the fragrance of their roses
on a warm spring day.

(Photo/Dick Schmidt)

About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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