From “The Rose”

I heard myself in every cell the singer sang

The wind in the singer had to pass through her heart

When the queen ascended into view I was with her, hiding

In her darkness. When she fell from favor

I fell too. I governed

Myself with silence. I covered my wound

In my own naked body

I said no protest words when the stranger 

Entered me. I’ll forget his face, I told myself

I closed my eyes and I did not forget it

Though it was many a good thing in spite of this

I did manage to forget: healing

Potions, songs, and secret sounds

The rose with its mouth like a child’s, asleep

Minaret, thorn, spire, steeple

Wishful flavor, exhausted people

Two cups of blood, one grain of sand

Receding flesh with your tooth in its hand

If I knew the words I would bid the mother of us all be seated

As it is I pull out a chair for my own mother to sit in

I offer her a cigarette

I light it for her in my mouth


Copyright © 2022 by Ariana Reines. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem while developing a performance based on Ancient Greek and Georgian concepts of Medea. I kept asking myself what it would mean to be the worst woman in the world. I was also thinking about ancient men who killed or were willing to kill their childrenall the Abrahams and Agamemnons, etc. What does it really mean to do violence to the future? The structure of our thinking seems all wrong. My mother has always smoked and there’s something sensual and melancholy that touches me about it. I know it’s wrong or whatever, but I love that it’s something she gives to herself. Something elegant, feminine, and mysterious about her endurance feels sacred to me.”
—Ariana Reines