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Roses in Winter

Stuart Greenhouse

                              Roses dans un verre a champagne, Edouard Manet

A yellow rose in a champagne glass,
at its center an empty, an “oh” of a moan
some small scent escapes from.
See its lower petals slack
as the lip of a man sapped
by illness whimpering a little
senseless whisper
to the man he had thought
he was, before his withering.
The slackness in those petals is painted faithfully,
I recognize the ugly way dry air
affects the under, the unsupported ones first.
Flowers never protest their decay
the way a man does, but this
is a painting of a rose, its face
deteriorates in grief
to just the sigh one would expect from Lear
were he ever, even for a moment,
to find himself
beyond speech
                       and it occurs to me
it is not strange
that the fate of a flower in winter,
even as thick-stemmed a rose as this,
is to wither in heat, nor
that its withering is,
in this painting, an expression
of dismay at its own
clipped youth, a protest
which fades as it forms
caught here in the forming.
It seems to me a clarified self-recognition
in the way
a cup, being the holding of nothing,
only in the breaking arrives
at itself.

Stuart Greenhouse

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