Death of a flower

Death of a flower ILLO

Mercedes Webb-Pullman

Death of a flower

Indifferent and bright as a
slaughterhouse knife, headlights
slice through the scene, shapes
spring to life; Nijinsky in his
shredded roses, mysterious
angels with heavy thighs and
sharp teeth, a soldier, a sailor,
a bride in raven gown wrapped
in a black lace veil. They smooth the way,
cry Hallelujah as the Queen of Spades
deals death all alive to the night,
bleeding like the wing of a sparrow.

It’s been raining forever.
People pass far below his window,
illusionary insects, dark
halos of tiny flat umbrellas
that should leave slime trails
like snails on gravestones.
Night’s black marble arm descends.

The wind picks up.
He steps out into it.


Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing 2011. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations and Otoliths, among others, and in her books, the latest being The Jean Genie. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.

Editor’s Notes on “Death of a flower”: Hauntingly dark surreal poem with compelling, if not disturbed, images. Though a peek into the psyche of the Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), the poem has universal merits. The shredded roses reference is an allusion to the 1911 Diaghilev-produced ballet, Le Spectre de la Rose (The Spirit of the Rose), which was performed at the Royal Opera House in London. The ballet story is about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the spirit of a souvenir rose from her first ball. Jean-Louis Vaudoyer wrote that story based on a poem by Théophile Gautier. Nijinsky was arguably the greatest male dancer of the 20th century. Sadly, his life tragically ended, subsumed by chronic schizophrenia, from kidney failure.

The image is a signed photograph of Vaslav Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose. Photography by Bert 1913 Valentine Gross Archive © Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

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