Poem for Saturday, and the Inspiration of Red, Red Roses

red rose
The old red rambling rose

This ancient rambler is blooming all over my gate, its blossoms filling the air with the delicate scent of the finest tea. It is old because I dug it up from my mother’s yard when I moved here and she no longer wanted it on her fence, and she had dug it up from the yard of a friend’s mother decades before when, newly married, she was filling her yard with flowers. Not doubt this rose’s lineage goes back dozens of back yards and a century or more, typically woman to woman, each of us feeling as if we’d won a prize in obtaining this wonderful rose for our yards.

A little of the roses on the old metal gate.

It is not like today’s brilliant red roses, the color is less red than a light burgundy. The flowers fade quickly; this rose bloomed this morning, and by tomorrow morning the petals will be fully opened to expose the yellow stamens in the center, the edges curled and a deep burgundy, the petals themselves darkening, even as another bud opens just along the branch. They are hardy as rocks and difficult to keep in shape as we want them to look like nice full shrubs or at least grow up a trellis while they only want to produce a few long graceful branches that wave in the breeze, lined with roses that fade in a day and smell like heaven. The newer hybrid meets all our requirements for color and shape and staying power, but the scent is barely detectable.

I like that wild habit, those long reaching branches displaying the finest of flowers and while it’s difficult to get through my gate right now I can live with that for about two weeks while the rose does her thing. I did have a simple metal arbor over the gate and would constantly train the rose branches up and over the arbor, but an ice storm last winter took care of that, not that it ever made much difference to what the rose chose to do.

And while I like the brilliance of today’s red rose, there is something far richer and deeper in the color of this older rose, one that actually inspired a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns who claimed it was lyric he’d copied down from a milkmaid as he had set about preserving Scottish songs during his last ten years, and set to the tune of “Major Graham” written by fiddler Neil Gow when it was published in 1797. I can’t imagine the world without this song, or that it be sung to a different melody. It is as lasting as this old red rambler growing on my gate.

Just about done blooming now, this rose made its first appearance here in my sketch “Lilacs and Laundry”. And this rose, along with another very old rose that blooms simultaneously in my yard, the old pink pasture rose, inspired one of my favorite paintings of flowers I’ve ever done, “Small Roses”.

pastel sketch of roses in a vase
Small roses, pastel, 8″ x 6″, 2001 © B.E. Kazmarski

Just one little sliver of sunlight crept through the blind and that was all it took to illuminate these old roses in a tiny glass vase. I stood in my kitchen and sketched this as quickly as possible before the light changed. The unbelievably bright pink pasture rose and the ancient deep red sweet-smelling climbing rose bloom plentifully in June. I placed them in an inexpensive glass bowl; they fall apart quickly but I still wanted to enjoy them indoors. I had prepared a number of drawing surfaces on old pieces of mat board, this being a combination of gesso and marble dust applied in a thick impasto, leaving deep brush marks for whatever I drew on it and tinted a soft green. It was over so quickly I barely had time to enjoy the process. (You can find canvas and digital prints of this in my Etsy shop.)

Poem: The Photograph

On the way to a friends’ home, late as usual, early on a June evening, I passed an older wood frame house that was obviously abandoned, though it had been freshly painted a cheery yellow; the grass grown tall and going to seed in the June growth, and an old deep red rambler rose at the corner of the house, below an old window with crooked lace curtains, just caught the warmth of the June evening sunlight, and I had to catch the moment, for the sake of that ancient rose and all who’d lived there and loved it.

The Photograph

An ancient rambling rose
Spread her arcs of deep red blossoms,
Rich against the yellow painted wood siding
At the corner of the house,
A creamy lace curtain in the window just above,
All soft, washed by the warm, gentle sun
Of an early June evening.
I paused, considered, returned to the spot,
Coming back to capture the last of the moment
Just before the shadow of the house across the street
Crept up over the rose,
The siding and then the window
Revealing faded, peeling paint
And a gray, sagging curtain,
The rose but a clump of brambles
Among tall grasses and thistles.

The Photograph ©2005 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.

poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski


People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


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