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My Grandmother In Her Rose Garden

Betsy Holleman Burke



New Dawn roses tumble around the arbor

blush-pink flowers tangle themselves. Reach

for morning sun, perfume the air with sweetness.

Mama Chris wears a print house dress

tattered straw hat, rimless glasses.

She smiles at her world, designed

one hybrid tea at a time.

Plants stand in neat rows, labeled

by date, Latin name, provenance.

She rests on a shaded wicker bench,

apple basket full of clippers by her side.




She snips her namesake rose,

cream with a yellow edge, orange center.

The skeletal leaves fall, covered with black spots.

She shakes her head, studies the damage,

knows the disease. Tiny green aphids crawl

across her swollen knuckles. A mosquito

whines in her ear. She mops her face

with a lace handkerchief,

pulls open her top buttons.




The sun is high, bench no longer

in shade. Ruined leaves lie crumbled

in her hands. Red welts cover her wrists.

Her dress is soaked through,

unladylike she knows.

Maybe family stopped by

left without finding her

but no bang of the screen door

no one calling her name.

The copper window screens are blank,

a porch light is on.

She will wait until sunset.



Photo Taken By Henry Brown

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