We spend hours on the rose—
elegize, appellation, fertilize, clip,
sequence the genome, all in the name
of the slippery silk beauty of scent, petals
soft as skin, leaves serrated or smooth, stems scabbed
with teeth. Now a new map of genome for aroma
for detailed tree branch twigs across from cousins:
strawberry, apple, and pear.
Perhaps you have eaten a rose
at a wedding, sugared or gold-dusted,
made more beautiful or less, made into something
that says something or that says nothing about dessert
or adoration. Perhaps you have read or written a poem
about a rose or the loss of the garden, the metaphor
of mother or virgin or the disaster of romance.
But have you edited a rose to reduce pesticide
and water use? A less thirsty rose, a camel rose;
rose is another crop, a wheat, a corn, a soy,
not a metaphor, a thing we make and shape
and buy, like all other things, like grasses, like meat,
like photo-altered mornings, like last breaths, like love.
Gwendolen Gross is a poet and novelist with five novels from Holt, Random House, and Simon and Schuster. Her work has appeared in dozens of magazines, including Yankee and Wind. After receiving a PEN Emerging Writers Fellowship, she completed a Master of Fine Arts at Sarah Lawrence College, New York. She teaches poetry, fiction, and essay workshops.