She held one up, twirling it in her hand
as if to show me how the world began
and ended in perfection. I was stunned.
How could she make a rose so woebegone,
couldn’t silk stand stiff? And how could a child,
otherwise convinced of her mother’s taste,
know what to think? It’s overblown, she smiled,
I love roses when they’re past their best.
‘Overblown roses’, the words swam in my head,
making sense as I suddenly saw afresh
the rose now, the rose ahead: where a petal
clings to a last breath; where my mother’s flesh
and mine, going the same way, may still
be seen as beautiful, if these words are said.
from The Meanest Flower (Carcanet, 2006), copyright © Mimi Khalvati 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher.