So Many Roses.

by Michelle Blower


Buried truths have a way of coming back up to the surface.

   Sunflowers. Sunflowers. Rows and rows of sunflowers.

   This was a happy place. The wife stitched tapestries, red roses and swans. The husband built these barns. There were pigs and chickens. Cherry, plum, apple and apricot trees. Fertile earth produced tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, pumpkins. And roses, so many roses. The Party was something out there-beyond the green painted wooden gate and purple-flowered mint. Something on the radio that you could switch off. The neighbours played the guitar and accordion together in the evenings. Now their house lies empty. Ivy seizing the gazebo, the chimney, the land. Creepers simulating grapevines like pirates, venturing across the boundaries. Ivy covers the trees, so they look like green horses. Aeolus holds their reins as the wind picks up a little, just a hush, as a magpie rattles to the next tree.

   In the cellar with the row of empty glass jars, the photograph of the wife, the husband, the neighbours, her sister. They are standing together or kneeling with lush bunches of grapes. I recognise this as the land at the back of the house. I recognise the woman who died in this house, her sister, wearing headscarves.

   They hide their history away, like old fading photos, shuffled away with no respect for those who once lived here. A sepia soldier stands in the village square, yet as I run my finger over the image, it begins to disappear. But they are hoping it will all fade away. The smoke dies down from the woodburner. As the clouds disappear from the sun-hung air there is still the smell of wood smoke, undetectable by sight yet buried deep into the pores of the house.

   This is a happy place. I hold my arms around the pear tree, the tallest tree on the land. Its rough bark against my cheek, is like the unshaven kiss of a loving man. The problems are something out there-beyond the green painted wooden gate-someone in the village that you could ignore. Years-old wood stacked high in the barns. The wood had lay untouched until it was robbed by the people that watch the house. An empty space now in the roof of the barn. Old shoes in bundles beneath the stone basin. 1960 etched into a concrete post. A marble rolls from the crumbling outdoor sink as I make the repairs. The horns of a pitchfork rise up from the back of the sink, holding the gutter. I pick the apples, make jam from plums. The mint spreads fast like fire across the land. And roses, so many roses. I plant more. I want a rose garden. And butterflies.

   They bury their history like they bury their bones. This secret looks like weathered wood. I place the bone with the other, just outside the gate, to the left. When the rain comes the auspice has the scent of the moment of death, it smells of blood. Between the grapevines. There is the word, rape, between grapes. The goodness snatched and abundance twisted. The rope-vines of the honeysuckle, grip and take over. The oracle cracks, like the snapping of old twigs for the fire.

She starts off very slowly

Her spirit breath upon the breeze

She throws white flashes from the clouds

Anemoi whisper from the trees.

The storm is getting closer

Gather round, oh, gather round

The thunder paints the hills so dark

As she dances on the ground.

   The porch faces west. Sometimes when I am away from the house, I turn to the setting sun and I am back here, sitting on the top step of the porch. Now, beyond bowing branches of flickering green, electric sparks flash from the fields as the spots of rain conjure up the scent of earth.

   You hardly notice how tightly the cyclone snakes around the house. Imperceptible, slowly, drawing up leaves and tiles, rattling the gutter as water begins to pour down. Lighting and thunder, white bombs clash in the air, clashing like the blank cartridges I fired. The pear tree is creaking. The power is off. I lie and wait. The wind sneaks around the house, smashing all the pears to pulp. Yet I realise, when I open the door to the howling darkness, the pears are ice. Hailstones in July.

   They would lie and wait. As the truck drove past the house, the heartbeat would quicken. Whole families would vanish. Or the husband taken away. The wife would bring money and food to the police begging for his release. Then weeks later, they would admit, he is dead.

   A leak to the roof, and leaves to rake. Everything is shaken. Resilient roses sprout blood red blooms, so suddenly.

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