She hadn’t known roses held such juice

Hidden inside their folds,

Not until she saw the drip drip dripping

Red rose water seeping out

From the blossom sprouting

In the middle of the ration mans’ forehead.


She’d taken her place, a little girl

In the serpentine line,

Where waiting for rice, flour, sugar, and tea

To be measured in judicious quantity

She played hide and seek with the boy

Ahead of her.


They hide then seek each other

From behind the folds of their mothers’ cloaks

All the while moving a step closer

To a pat of butter, a bag of yogurt, a square of cheese

Weighted on scales by the ration man who calls,

“Forward march!”


Their play shakes the billowing cloaks’

Enveloping their mothers, a flash of leg revealed

Laughter and giggles become louder

Then a soldier raps her shoulder

Snaps short words at her mother who snaps at her,

“Quiet! Wipe that smile off your face! Be quick, be quick!”


Another booted soldier takes the boy and his mother aside,

They are swallowed by a cloud of black cloaks

Flapping like crows in a crowd

Bearing them away into the serpents coils,

And she marches forward

Toward the milk and eggs that wait.


Now the man ahead is talking,

His wife is expecting, can he get extra butter and milk

For her, for their growing baby?

He slips the ration man a rolled wad of paper

Receives the treasures gained

For his wife and their unborn child.


“No butter or milk for you today, there’s a shortage,”

The ration man informs her mother

Who takes her weighted portions

With lips clamped as if shut in a vise so tight

She wonders, “Will mothers’ lips ever part again?”

While skipping to keep up with the brisk steps in silence.



A soldier drags away a limp body,

It’s the ration man with open unseeing eyes

A red rose marking his forehead,

They vanish into the tightening bands of the serpent

A trail of red petals dripping behind them; splashing her shoes.


She’d thought roses grew in the park

The one with a new name;

To utter the old name was a swift way

To sprout roses from head and chest

Gaining quick entrance into

Another sort of garden.


The red petals stick to her shoes

All the way to a fresh land

Where as a refugee she learns

Rosewater is holy

Rosewater is clear

Tulips grow now in the park.


One thought on “Rosewater

  1. The life of the refugee. So much anguish in their lives, it is too deep for words and tears. Gole lalehs bloom instead. Their lives, their lands drenched, the colour of the red red rose.


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