Bent over a flower bed, poised

above a rose. I watch him

like some sad tourist:

khaki shorts, sandals, three-day beard,

Panama hat shading his eyes.

He caresses the petals

like you would touch a girl’s cheek.

I can see his lips move but cannot hear.

Is he whispering love-words to this rose?


Or does he, like us, have questions?

What’s it like to always

have to keep your head up?

Why does twilight in autumn

taste like apples?

How is it that my wife’s hands

can get so cold?

Does he expect this rose, of all roses,

to listen? Care?


That’s a damned odd thing to do:

To talk to a flower, to ask a rose

whose voice that is

trapped in the wind

or why, in that not too far off,

Death waits with a sick grin

and morning breath

like a pastor by the doors

at the end of a service.


We all find a reason

to get up in the morning:

the kids’ drive to school,

baseball, rock n roll, money,

that girl at the Starbucks…

We all want it

to mean something.


On Monday, in an office

with dust on the windows,

I will feed hundreds

of yellowing pages—

memos, construction plans:

records of other men’s work—

one by one into a scanner

where they will be saved on a computer

as crude images, never to be

consulted and probably forgotten.

I’ve been doing this for months—

And yet I have the nerve to ask

why anyone would talk to a rose.


Luke Stromberg’s work has appeared in The New Criterion, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Hopkins ReviewThink Journal, and several other literary journals. He lives in Upper Darby, PA, and works as an adjunct English instructor at Eastern University and Cabrini College.


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