He plucked a wild sub-rosa rose upon the mountainside,
Where gentian and edelweiss waved in the flowery tide,
He gave it to the maiden who accepted it, bemused,
It was not legal tender, but he could not stand accused.
No courtliness his form expressed; it seemed he made for sport,
To play the game with levity a well-bred maiden ought,
The stolen bloom was currency in realms of make-believe,
Feigned heart and soul of romance made for sniggers up his sleeve.
Glib ardour did not move her, yet his perseverance did,
He'd watched and learned to walk in step; how could she then forbid
So serendipitous a tie upon the outward path?
With no comparison to hand, 'twas easy on her faith.
The peaks shone white as angel robes and diamond-sewn their folds,
Their treacherous crevasses masked beneath the frigid cold,
The pair had chanced it merely to the halfway point by train,
Where summer meadows capered in the gentle warmth and rain.
He told her of a palace carved in ice upon the crown,
A crossover on skaters' blades defence for fragile bone,
The air was thin as razors, only ravens soared the clouds,
He hinted not at windows showing lachrymosal shrouds.
Some day they'd venture upwards and skim the glistening planes,
Glissando was his forte; a Pied Piper's fluting strains
She heard, and wondered wistfully at such a scheme of things,
Enough his love for two, he said (his gift for wind and strings!)
On Valentine's Day evening, he pitched her a proposal,
The moon rode high in vap'rous air, prospecting betrothal,
I think you've jumped the gun, she said. I know, he said, it's true,
A salvo on still waters can do much to shape the view.
They married on a luckless day of umbrous gloom and mist,
He, confident that wedlock would add sparkle to dull tryst,
Bade welcome from his balcony, benevolence well-mocked,
When she tried to cross the threshold, she found the door was locked.
Years passed: the wild sub-rosa rose did wither on its stem,
She placed it in a casket and lamented 'twas no gem,
But blood-black brittle petals told a truth beyond its thorn,
There's no buried cache of pearls when an errant knight pours scorn
On the heart and soul of romance in favour of brass tacks,
Oh, ash before the embers! And no lustre for the cracks!
A castle on false premises is tawdry sort of wealth,
And with dazzling manifesto, he captures her by stealth.
Lo! the chambers of his heart are hollow as bare graves,
Material expense can't buy the character he craves,
The walking dead reaps debt, to neither flesh nor soul gives host,
His alibi for living is a smoke and mirrors ghost.
For he was never honest and elusiveness cost dear,
He concealed so very smartly a taste for him, not her,
What matter if clandestinely he donned a different head?
To betray her with her gender was running in the red.
So the flower proved an emblem of a travesty untold,
No blissful bee alighted on its pollen-pad of gold,
When the fateful dart struck home, she determined to be free,
And burned the wild sub-rosa rose for all eternity!
*Not included in The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...