The Stinking Rose


Everything I want to say is
in that name
for these cloves of garlic – they shine
like pearls still warm from a woman’s neck.

My fingernail nudges and nicks
the smell open, a round smell
that spirals up. Are you hungry?
Does it burn through your ears?

Did you know some cloves were planted
near the coral-coloured roses
to provoke the petals
into giving stronger perfume…

Everything is in that name
for garlic:
Roses and smells
and the art of naming…

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet…

But that which we call garlic
smells sweeter, more
vulnerable, even delicate
if we call it The Stinking Rose.

The roses on the table, the garlic in the salad
and the salt teases our ritual
tasting to last longer.
You who dined with us tonight,
this garlic will sing to your heart
to your slippery muscles – will keep
your nipples and your legs from sleeping.

Fragrant blood full of garlic –
yes, they noted it reeked under the microscope.

His fingers tired after peeling and crushing
the stinking rose, the sticky cloves –
Still, in the middle of the night his fingernail
nudges and nicks her very own smell
her prism open.

from The Stinking Rose (Carcanet, 1995), copyright Sujata Bhatt 1995, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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