Rosa, Gardening

October marigolds smell acrid,
dusty, thrilling even as I toss them
on the compost where they’ll fade

bitter as the cabbage fed, core and all,
to Rosa Luxemburg in prison. She’d scratched
a garden maybe twice the size of her wool

petticoat and, it’s said, they let her plant --
what harm from cabbage and a row of daisies?
Perhaps she saw the full moon glowing pale green

like a ripe cabbage, saw ropy vines
laddering the granite walls, saw her slender
body climb those vines to the quiet moon

where she’d sit and think, not fearing the sharp
knock on her door. Our city’s ancient prison’s
full of gardens -- thistles, burdock, digging

at the crumbling mortar, the open windows
full of vines that hang like invitations:
walk in, walk out. Rosa’s prison was

a safer place than freedom. Just two months
out, before the rifle butts and blades, before
her body floated in the Landwehr Canal

she wrote her last words: victory and masses
and bloom from defeat like marigolds
that can reseed themselves on rock with an inch
of dirt, a glance of sun.

Printed with permission by the author

 

Originally published on May 7, 2009