A Thing like Death

by Tyler Chadwick

(On Rose of Sharon by J. Kirk Richards)

What was it Juliet said? Not nomenclature of rose
or Romeo. Not to Lawrence about lurking beneath
serpents’ skin or lying with dead men’s bones. Not
to the vial about this conceit of death and night,

receptacle of flesh and memory. But in the tomb,
after she had bent to plant one on her husband’s corpse,
to divert his rigor into the troubled pool of her flesh:
As she thrust his knife through the adolescent bloom

of her breast—This is thy sheath. Thy vessel. A peephole
through my skin into the serpent’s mouth. Come see
how he’s used your rib to pick our future from his teeth,
how his venom floods the amniotic sac of my soul. Come

see me in the woman whose rose hangs like a bloodstain
over her bosom, stem slinking down her navel
and between closed legs like my blood pooled and snaked
as I fell at last against your hardening flesh. Come see

how our tragedy broods over this purgatorial plain
spread thick with the lamentation and promise
of apocalypse. How the bodies, old garments shed,
forever rise toward some slit in her tendriled mane.

How they twist to face the mystery beyond. How
the trio in the top left quarter hangs near enough rebirth
to blossom into longing beyond the artist’s red stain.

TYLER CHADWICK, an award-winning poet, essayist, and editor, received his MA in English from National University in San Diego, California. He is currently a doctoral candidate in English at Idaho State and he teaches writing at Weber State.

Painting: Rose of Sharon by J. Kirk Richards. Used by permission of the artist.