My Perfect Rose by Barry Tebb

At ten she came to me, three years ago,

There was ‘something between us’ even then;

Watching her write like Eliot every day,

Turn prose into haiku in ten minutes flat,

Write a poem in Greek three weeks from learning the alphabet;

Then translate it as ‘Sun on a tomb, gold place, small sacred horse’.

I never got over having her in the room, though

Every day she was impossible in a new way,

Stamping her foot like a naughty Enid Blyton child,

Shouting "Poets don’t do arithmetic!"

Or drawing caricatures of me in her book.

Then there were the ‘moments of vision’, her eyes

Dissolving the blank walls and made-up faces,

Genius painfully going through her paces,

The skull she drew, the withered chrysanthemum

And scarlet rose, ‘Descensus averno’, like Virgil,

I supposed.

Now three years later, in nylons and tight skirt,

She returns from grammar school to make a chaos of my room;

Plaiting a rose in her hair, I remember the words of her poem -

‘For love is wrong/in word, in deed/But you will be mine’

And now her promise to come the last two days of term,

"But not tell them", the diamond bomb exploding

In her eyes, the key left ‘Accidentally’ on my desk

And the faint surprise.

by Barry Tebb

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