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  • Writer's pictureIan McCluskey


“You cannot kill a rose,” a former girlfriend told me,

as we struck spades into spring soil and clawed up

dandelions by the handful.

“Prune roses on President’s Day,” my grandma told me,

when she wore Sunday lavender, and could still drive

to my house and bring iris tubers.

Each spring they bloom, lavender.

And tubers grow more and choke the path

to my front door, and I dig some up

and wish I had someone to give them to.

The roses I hack back mid-February,

the cycle of my birth, a reminder each

year that one more has passed

as I consider how deep to make the cut---

guess where in hardened stalk a bud might form.

Cut down, below the knees, until only

the stalks stick up, brown, thorny,

pointed the cardinal directions.

“You can’t kill a rose,” I recall and look

at my palm, trace the lines and the soft

skin that once had the polish of blisters.

On the old cherry tree was a swing,

made of scrap wood for my niece.

And the swing, and the tree, and the snowfall

of pink petals are gone.

But this rose pokes stubbornly up.

“I’m here,” it tells me.

“We are still here.”

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