The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Lisa Kosow
JOSEPHINE AT MALMAISON
I was Rose when we met,
you named me Josephine
in your letters from Egypt
written on desert nights
after evening diminished the clamor
and chaos of battle, choking smells
of gun smoke and blood tainting the air.
You wrote that I was all you thought of,
all you saw, and you named me your own,
But you knew I was Rose, and brought
rare seeds from your journeys,
from every ship captured you demanded
new species which I sowed here and tended
carefully, each a unique, precious life.
Gardens flourished, swans graced the lake.
You would have me be your swan, your rose,
petals dropping at your touch,
smooth as china cups
holding bitter tea, a brewing argument.
You decided an Emperor must have heirs,
and now alone at Malmaison
I hold a teacup, a delicate rendering
of a swan in bone china, white
as the pearls I wear around my neck,
as the silk gown that flows like sea foam
over my body, now my own.
Still, I would have some sweetness
or some hard jewels, diamonds, rubies emeralds,
your letters or your world of conquest.
I stroll where gazelles
graze the lawn, summer emerges
with new green sprouts.
Soon lilacs and plums will bloom.
I have created this world where
rose petals unfold their velvet names,
Old Blush, Seven Sisters, LaMarque,
names sweet songs I hum
as a mother might her sonís,
or I might have yours, once, Napoleon.
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