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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