by William Robert Flowers

Those roses I bought for you have grown spectral
in our shuttered room.  The florist posed them so well.
Now, drying, darkened, I find them much more beautiful
than before.  Their heads are bent, mostly intact,
though the petals have closed their dry hands
over some hidden center, like a man who has heard
something astonishing, and covers his face
with both hands to capture his thoughts.  And then
stays that way, forever, holding himself through time,
while baby’s breath comes loose from its stems
and covers the dresser, and we come and go with our human
habits, naked or clothed, sometimes swearing,
or making love, often just lying in the darkness and breathing.
Today I saw the roses in their translucent vase,
and wondered if they were really dead.  Are they more alive
for having retained their form so long after their
veins have dried, or are they merely ghosts of a past
gift, waiting for a careless hand to destroy what little remains?
What can we keep from a living gift?
I like to think that even if the roses had been taken
from their vase and laid upon the open window’s frame
for the birds and wind to do with as they wished,
their essence would continue invisibly, like the waiting
arms of the Venus de Milo, always apparent
to one eager or foolish enough to fall.


William Robert Flowers has a BA in English from the University
of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and he is now pursuing his MFA at
the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  His work has
recently been published in
Hunger Mountain, Poetry Miscellany,
Great River Review, and Prick of the Spindle.

On “Gifts”:
Many of my favorite authors, especially in their shorter lyrical
works, begin as a voice observing an image, then the poet/voice
engrafts with the image, until eventually it is the image itself
speaking in the voice of the poet.  This poem, through its many
drafts and alterations, has from the beginning been centered
around a three-rose arrangement I bought my wife for an
anniversary, which we put away in a room we seldom enter
(mostly so that our cats wouldn’t destroy it) and then never
disposed of.  Once dead, the arrangement seemed strangely
eternal, and the sensations it called up were of a hybrid,
paradoxical nature: both living and dead, dust-dry but organic,
joyous yet elegiac, a symbol of love shut away in an empty
room.  I wanted to inhabit those roses, become something like
them in order to speak in their voice.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 1
(Spring 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.