Poetry by Dr. Charley Barnes: The Rose | Sub rosa

Poetry by Dr. Charley Barnes: The Rose | Sub rosa

The Rose | Sub rosa

I picked it from her garden on my way to you. 

I walked along the pathway, wound 
myself like ivy – the way you have
always liked me to be – and when I arrived
I pressed my thumb against your lips
to kiss away blood she’d brought.

I warned you of thorns but you paid 
no nevermind to a young girl
and her cautions. 

We crushed it somewhere in the bedsheets
and tucked beneath the pillows I found her scent –
something like rose water. 

I asked then if she’d notice the flower was missing
from the bush by the garden gate.  

You dressed in a hurry, leaving me soft
and thornless and staring at the moulding 
on the ceiling. Its petals pressed and carved 
and curled; its sharp bits barely visible.

We must never speak of this, you said,
how I picked her flowers on my way. 

Author’s Note

In ancient times, when councilmen would meet in chambers there would be a rose fixed to the ceiling – sub rosa – to indicate everyone present had been sworn to secrecy.