The Rose and the Nightingale by Susan Taylor

The Rose and the Nightingale

Rosa Rugosa,
how long has she lived
behind our house?

Her perfumed bodice,
magenta, the colour
of artistry,

make up, one off;
no other living thing
quite her shade,

no other perfume,
so sensational
in its occasion,

its thrill, like hearing
someone playing a piano
in an upstairs room.

Two ancient bushes
of Rosa Rugosa,
deep-rooted in our ground,

reminder,
of an old fashioned healer
making good works here.

She has drawn
time’s veil to one side,
and is dancing in

the Rosa Rugosa.
How long has she lived
behind our house?

Prior to piano,
virginal, harpsichord,
this is the story,

a nightingale, in love,
settled down to sing
in a flair of scent

from her perfumed bodice,
magenta, the colour
of make belief.

Later, a priest came
through the woods in the dusk,
called by the voice

not of nightingale,
but a singular lady
playing piano.

It is recorded
in neighbourhood memories
how he wooed her,

gowned and hooded,
stepping out on new moon nights,
presuming secrecy.

When we arrived
the agent’s tale was that
all the upstairs floors

were pinewood gifted
from the Abbey down the valley
of the holy brook.

We make our bed
on this pine which creaks
of high romance:

the lady pianist
wore Rosa Rugosa,
while out of the wood

crept a night wanderer,
a buck who was called
up the running stream

by a nightingale’s voice
touching the plush
of forbidden dream.

Rosa Rugosa,
how long has she lived
behind our house?

Her perfumed bodice,
magenta, the colour
of artistry.


Susan Taylor lives on Dartmoor and tries to capture its wildness in her poetry as much as ever she can. Her two most recent collections are The Suspension of the Moon and A Small Wave for your Form from Oversteps Books. She co-edits South West poetry journal, The Broadsheet  with Simon Williams and runs Café Culture, a monthly cabaret of spoken word and music in Thrive Café, Totnes.

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