Beauty Closely Held

by Kristina Woodhill

As I grew older I began to
Think of the rose in your mouth
As more than just a bit of beauty
You randomly picked
As you walked to
The village bazaar

Bare feet calloused and hardened
To the treaded trail you walked
Traversed by camel’s caravans,
Donkeys, and occasionally
Swept clean by the dust,
No, by the sands of storms
From nowhere, from everywhere
Covering, enshrouding, scraping all
Mixing all smells and sounds within Time’s wind’s roar
Whispered words of love and strong calls to devotion
Ripped raw to crescendo by war’s banshee whore
Time and again
Time and again
Time and again

Your turban’s tail trailed
Gently over sweet scented petals,
Stems held so tenderly by lips
Born of veiled kissed lips
That knew the tang taste of blood
From thorn’s deeply pierced
Refusal to release you
From loyalties born and
Defended against all
Against you and yours
As one or die
Fight or die
Live or die

As I grew older
I began to think
Of the rose in your mouth
Not as a randomly picked
Moment of beauty

But your way to keep sweet
Rose-rich scented times close
In your on-again
Peaceful, violent Afghan life
A thing of beauty
Not kept hidden to protect
A thing allowed to grow
And bloom and show
Inhaled and free
For all to see
For all to see


Author's Note: It is common to see men holding flowers, generally roses, in their mouths, the stem inside, not to the side. : ) It is fascinating to see this enjoyment of beauty held close, not only for the eye, but also, I suspect, for the nose in a land of pungent, varied odors. It is also a stark contrast, from time to time, to the surroundings. I had not thought about it for many years.

Posted on 02/18/2006
Copyright © 2020 Kristina Woodhill

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Quentin S Clingerman on 02/19/06 at 01:45 AM

An excellently descriptive account of an Aghan. So much of cultural perspective expressed. The shape of the poem adds to its attractiveness.

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 02/21/06 at 02:10 PM

An intriguing memory, Kristina, and you describe it so well that I was gladly lost inside the details. I love the form and imaging. holding the beauty just now

Posted by Kathleen Wilson on 11/08/06 at 04:31 PM

A wonderful, unusual image, and culturally precious. You kept it in the treasure box of your memory. It is wonderful that it stayed there, (my husband always calls this "incubating") and finally you were able to give it context and expression. From such strong early experience you've been able to share such colors and shapes that most have never known, from a world afar and yet with a poetic strength that brings them into our present!

Posted by Rhonda Maneki on 02/17/07 at 01:00 AM

I drifted there - I felt the moment. A beautiful write...* exceptional*

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