"The Soul of the Rose," John William Waterhouse, 1908, Wikimedia photo.
“The Soul of the Rose,” John William Waterhouse, 1908, Wikimedia photo.

Fever inflamed, I lie prostrate, devoured by
Delirium, mindless beyond will to fight,
To resist raw agonies, unrelenting pains.
Disease of heart and soul, of flailed flesh
And shattered bones, my life transformed
From mortal coil to one who touched
Heaven’s rosy light, soul’s fulfillment and
Completion, welcomed eternal door.

Yes, to death I am relinquished, tireless
Hands reaching from darkness veiled, to
Steal unwitting life, cessation of all I ever
Knew. Others opine my life has turned,
Persevering consuming flames, my soul to
Savor sweet roses yet another day. My
Confession made, spiraling and exhausted,
I breathed my last the night before.

Alas, I realize myself free-floating, above
Pillows, blankets asunder, nude form face-
Down, shimmering pale in dawning light.
Familiar voices calling, warmth of greeting
Eyes and hands, music of celestial spheres,
Chants of death and resurrection, rousing
Rose-thorn pricked, I awaken anew, for we
Reached lover’s ecstasy, entwined flesh,
Immortal cup of flame.

In this poem, the unidentified young woman in Waterhouse’s painting recollects her sexual awakening by delighting in the sensual fragrance of a single rose.

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