A rose, a poem

A rose.

If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself.”
—Mao Zedong, On Practice, 1937.

I would give you, my love, a rose.”
“But what is it?”

A word, an echo of an echo,
resounding through the centuries,
from a forgotten, ancient tongue,
dimmed and drowned under the weight of eternity.

A shape, crackling in vellum,
smearing ink, corroded wood,
bézier curves stylised into a vague motif,
barely calling forth a fuzzy memory.

A scent, clawing and stubborn,
screaming its high note
over the subtle, delicate overtones
crushed in the still room.”

What for, my love?”
“I wish I knew.”

Give me something else.”
“I would give you, my love, a kiss.”
“A kiss, and what does it mean?”
“It is a memory, a wish, a promise.”

What does it remember?”
“All of you: the warmth you leave in bed after you go,
the way my fingers slide along the crook of your back,
the coolness of your bare toes,
and the softness of your cheek.”

And what does it desire?”
“All of you: your laughter full of joy,
your wisdom, round and bright,
the weight of your tread
and the whisper of your breath.”

And what does it pledge?”
“Come and taste.”

It tastes of life:
unripe apricots, a loose floor board,
a chipped bowl, a tap that leaks,
a spot on the wallpaper, and a singing hinge.”

It tastes of roses, too.”
“I will take your rose.”

Now is the time when I should tell you:
hold it softly, cup it in your hand,
lest the thorns prick your fingers.
But what’s a rose for, if it never draws blood?”