The Lenten Rose Deflowered

by Carolin Messier

Even near a seed-filled feeder
the squirrels are partial
to the hellebores,
a hidden gift I’ve discovered
left by the last gardener
who made this buttercup house
a home.

Demure in their woodland beauty
they are the first to bloom
amongst the ashen days
a month before winter’s end
with heads bowed
in reverential shades of speckled dusk
monk’s claret
dusty widows’ veils
and singed-edge sage of crone.

No trumpet of spring
as the upturned daffodil,
strengthened by the austerity of cold
they contemplate the waking
from hibernation
with the slow return of light.

While preferring the shade of the cedars
shrouded further by the habit
of rhododendron leaves,
this tamed wilderness
is yet no convent
leaving their stems and petals exposed
to tiny teeth and claws
as the sword ferns
fail to protect their virtue
from the insatiable chatter
of squirrels in heat.