Carolyn Oliver: “At the Columbus Park of Roses”


A pallid woman and a plain man circle
the rose beds, years ago, under a sun
misery bright. While the flowers gambol
up their trellises, they wilt, but she’s the one
who tries to make him laugh. So young, so green,
still convinced this should be enough for her—
so far from growing the good thorns she needs,
still believing sweat’s the same as water.
In twenty minutes she’ll be throwing up
in brittle brown grass. He’ll wait in the car.
After all, she’s been like this for months. She’ll scrub
the taste away and smile. It’s worked so far.
I’d say: love will come, you’ll get better too.
But, dear girl-self, only half of that’s true.

Carolyn Oliver’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, FIELD, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review, where she now serves as a poetry editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family.

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