Carnation Lily Lily Rose

Carnation Lily Lily Rose is a painting by John Singer Sargent. The original is in the Tate Gallery, London.

Carnation lily lily rose
It's a game we recite. My sister's idea.
Against the light
which is falling, we have mother's
garden, her lilies, so proud,
the heads too heavy. They
sway and their dust makes
sister sneeze. And father cries from the veranda
O Rose
O Rose

The daylight is crumbling like old marzipan

What is the light - the pink of virgins
the cream of evening
warmth of bees almost abed,
paper lanterns.
The grasses
sway high about our feet,
soft, like skeins of velvet
Carnation lily lily rose

I can't tell anyone how it happened,
the butcher's man, his brown paper package
- Mother, whitethroated abandon
softly falling, in slowmotion twilight
a soft swish of fabrics
the wall rainsoaked schist

Then pale as a lantern
in her bed, with its sheets all golden
golden as a light from a bee which is broken
Carnation lily lily rose
Tell me the name of the man I'll love
and I'll tell you where he goes

Carnation lily lily rose
ballroom with its French fresco paintings
ordered from Paris, along with men
to install it - four maidens
smiling down - but no one dances.

Carnation lily lily rose
We wait to light lanterns,
until bees are abed
and the softest glow comes from the moon
after the light has fled

all that is left is a starched pinafore
and the sighs and the signs
that went before
carnation lily lily rose

Rosemarie Koch

If you've any comments on this poem, Rosemarie Koch would be pleased to hear from you.