First Draft

Roses are Red

Twelve heavy heads
in a bone white vase.
Seventeen dead in Florida.

The vase is painted in blue veins,
Chinese character for love: ten strokes
that mean with action
and with heart.

Another shooting at a school,
kids with love notes in their bags,
candy on their breath.
This morning I was feeling safe.

I copied out a poem for my mate
about a wall, a valentine,
a promise we were strong, secure.

He bought roses, boxes
shaped like hearts to store all manner
of sweetness.

The blooms aren’t blood,
more like freshest scar, petals
soft as ruptured skin.

-ceh 2/14/18 (draft 1)

What I mean is…

What do I do with my own celebration and safety? On a day when so many others are so vividly and visibly distraught, how do I accept valentine roses from my husband and mush around in our tiny happiness? The roses end up looking like memorials, the roses I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of, piled in streets, against chain link fences, heaps of them pleading with sorrow.

I want to…

I want to figure out how to make this not so darned sad and heavy. It feels melodramatic to me and I don’t want to co-opt the anguish of others, or make it pretty. Roses can so easily be cliché, and I don’t want to trick myself into thinking I said something just because I get a nice simile on the page. I guess I want the roses to be a redemption somehow, without defaulting to “appreciate what you have” or “cherish your loved ones.” Gag. Maybe I need to start with the images of the memorials and piles of bouquets from the news, and then move to my own living room. Maybe the focus goes from large to small, exterior to interior. Maybe the final line should be the bone white vase. Maybe that’s all I can offer is to be a container myself, a white vase, that holds but can’t really help or save the people (roses) who’ve been cut. There’s a lot of stuff that evokes death already – the heavy heads, bone, boxes, ruptured skin. Maybe I need to choose just one or two of those instead of the overload that makes it melodramatic.

Second Draft


Chain link fence holds up
mounds of flowers, strong shoulder
or a barricade, and messy grief

is on the news again.
Seventeen dead in Florida –
another shooting at a school.

The kids had candy on their breath
this time, love notes in their bags.
Even my husband bought roses.

This morning, feeling safe,
I copied out a poem, flag to wave
about how strong we were.

The blooms he brought are not as red as blood,
more like scar, freshest petals
soft as ruptured skin.

The vase is painted in blue veins,
Chinese character for love: ten strokes
that mean with action
and with heart.
Twelve heavy heads,
and I a bone white vase.

-ceh (2nd draft) 2/25/18