The Dead Rose

He bought her the rose as a joke.
After all, he was gay —
she was the frat boys’ tramp
and they had spent all of a night
joking about the ones they’d had
in common.

He didn’t deliver it:
on a perverse whim
he held the rose an extra day.
By the next morning it was
a limp and withered hagbloom,
the petals pale, the nectar dry,
the dust as from a tomb or trashcan
marring its too perfect face.

Would he nurse the thorn
with the blood of his hand?

Would he wet the leaf
with a tear? Not in this life.

He wrapped his sad sigil of mock love
in gaily-colored paper,
added a card
headed Memento amorae,
told her their “grand affair”
was already over:
hence the dead
instead of the living
red rose,
then left it on her doorstep.

Did she weep at the thought of his laughter?
Did he smile at the thought of her tears?
He really only did this
so he could write a poem.

Years later he would think about his callowness.
Finding the poem, he would
destroy it with a shudder.
An irony, since most of the women he knows,
Gothically inclined,
prefer dead roses to living ones
But way back then,
no fraternity boy ever gave her, or him,
a single rose, alive or dead.

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