The Graveyard of Roses

Ireland Smith

I visited the graveyard of roses today. 

Where 1,270 new roses were planted, 

   one for every second of the   

      day. 

Ripped, torn, and bleeding petals were scattered, thrown 

across the ground 

left to freeze  

in the elements 

left to rot  

in the unforgiving wilderness of life.  

   Innocence lost to thieves, 

     to the wolves. 

My rose is here too. 

Along with countless others  

gathered from around the world. 

     Here they are protected 

from the memories of the        attack 

from the memories of the                    attacker 

from the pain 

the shame, the guilt 

the feeling of being impure, tainted  

     flowers, who were discarded  

after being  

    used. 

Abused. 

I still feel the claws  

of the wolf, 

piercing my throat and 

cutting off my breath 

my voice. 

Ripping out my vocal cords, 

  leaving behind a flower devoid  

of petals and the warm 

 carefree happiness 

    of innocence  

that once existed in me,  

my sixteen-year-old soul. 

I can still feel its teeth 

tearing at my lips, my flesh until they come away red, 

crimson. 

An assuring bloody grin 

as it stalks its prey, who lay 

paralyzed 

  palsied 

     petrified. 

I knew what would happen next 

but I was helpless to stop it, 

       to fight back 

       to scream 

       to do                         anything. 

Anything but just   

lay there. 

Like a rose in a garden, basting underneath  

the rays of the scorching sun unable  

    to move even as the birds swarm,  

circling in closer. 

  Too close. 

    Please,  

     get away. 

Petals ripped out from the nexus, blood and tears  

   dripping down the stem, until there was nothing  

left but crinkled petals 

left to be buried in the graveyard  

of innocent roses. 

With all the other victims of the wolf attacks I drop  

   to my knees at my gravestone, falling  

under the weight of all the memories 

kept hidden, kept protected, 

  “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” 

kept locked away— 

where it wouldn’t be real 

where it would be a nightmare.  

Just a haunting figure 

   in the shadows. 

It was real. 

Why was this real? 

Wolves will always exist. 

They hide amongst the trees, preying  

on those drifting in the breeze. 

       Like cowards 

Leaving behind eclipsed flowers in their wake. 

                  Not all survive, 

but those that do live  

                            in a new garden, 

the garden of resilience 

with thousands of others. 

        We are stronger, more courageous. 

                             The sun shines on us every day, 

today, 

reminding us that we are not  

alone, never alone. 

           Bound together  

by tragedy, by kismet. 

And while a piece of us exists  

            in this graveyard, we continue to grow stronger 

            in the garden. Petals a little chaffed,  

but beautiful and resilient  

  nonetheless. 

Trigger Warning: This poem is written on behalf of those who have suffered from sexual assault and/or abuse. May be triggering for some. 

Contributor's Note

Ireland Smith is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Chemistry, Psychology, and Literature. She plans to attend medical school next fall and become a physician. In the meantime, she enjoys writing poems to express complex human emotions and experiences, and often confronts heavy issues in her poetry to bring social awareness to them. She graciously thanks everyone who has been supportive of her writing over the years.

Smith_Ireland_edited.jpg