St Valentine's Day has been and has gone,
another year without roses. We both know
that no bouquet could cut it, nor any bunch
of gathered roadside weeds tied with a bow.
A dozen long-stemmed lilies splashed with blood,
our mingled A! and O! My love, such wounds.
The heart is a deep mine, riddled with shafts.
Down we fall, lost and cold in catacombs,
blind, choking, stricken faces stiff as masks.
In the dark the cage waits with its winch. Come,
I give you roses: ten dozen blood-stained words,
garden-grown, imperfect. The little bird
in its cage within a cage is singing for its life.
Up! Up! Ring the bell! Clang the bars! Husband. Wife.
I fell in love with Sue Wootton's poem "Roses" when I first came across it in the Christchurch Press as the weekend poem. It was later included in her collection Magnetic South. A number of Sue's poems use the sonnet, or other traditional forms. Writing in form can so easily seem sing song, when we are used to poetry that sounds more conversational. We no longer accept the twisting of word order to fit the form, so that it seems to me that a good poem in form is much harder to achieve than it was a century or so ago. And yet, I love it when it is well done, as it is here.
Sue says of this poem: "the sonnet Roses is composed of 'ten dozen blood-stained words' Arguably an imperfect count (as the poem admits) - you have to count the title and each separate part of the three hypenated words."
It seemed a perfect poem for the day after Valentine's Day - as long as you are not too sentimental!