The way the petals fell
off the rose I took

(tidying the house we had lived in for a year)

from Julia’s room,
the single rose, overblown, in its brass vase;

the way they landed, on that hideous

red wall-to-wall shag
carpet in the rented house—

one, then two discrete petals
creamy, and fragrant when sniffed

like the cheek of some superannuated aunt

proffered to be kissed,

the veined creaminess edged with blush—
those two petals, then four more: six
in all. A pattern: something

a tealeaf-reader would study

or a Taoist who augured
from the configuration of prayer beads

tossed ritually onto temple flagstones

how a day would run.

It prefigured something—

auspicious I hoped, though
people don’t come to me for augury—

for the journey we were cusping on:
One sea, one ocean, half a continent.

I gathered the petals (there being
six of us) in the palm of my hand,

freed the latch on the second-storey casement

and released them into the

August morning:

you and me

and our four—

hostages to gravity, all six.
I was almost afraid to look—

superstition I suppose—

as they navigated the air.

Richard Tillinghast

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 11 Number 4, on page 31
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