Gerald Stern


Griffin Poetry Prize 2003
International Shortlist

Book: American Sonnets: Poems

Poet: Gerald Stern

Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Gerald Stern reads Roses

Roses, by Gerald Stern


There was a rose called Guy de Maupassant,
a carmine pink that smelled like a Granny Smith
and there was another from the seventeenth century
that wept too much and wilted when you looked;
and one that caused tuberculosis, doctors
dug them up, they wore white masks and posted
warnings on the windows. One wet day
it started to hail and pellets the size of snowballs
fell on the roses. It’s hard for me to look at
a Duchess of Windsor, it was worn by Franco
and Mussolini, it stabbed Jews; yesterday I bought
six roses from a Haitian on Lower Broadway;
he wrapped them in blue tissue paper, it was
starting to snow and both of us had on the wrong shoes,
though it was wind, he said, not snow that ruined
roses and all you had to do was hold them
against your chest. He had a ring on his pinky
the size of a grape and half his teeth were gone.
So I loved him and spoke to him in false Creole
for which he hugged me and enveloped me
in his camel hair coat with most of the buttons missing,
and we were brothers for life, we swore it in French.

From American Sonnets: Poems, by Gerald Stern
Copyright © Gerald Stern, 2002

2 Replies to “Gerald Stern”

  1. I’m an Australian living part time in Los Angeles and I came across Gerald Stern in a collection of poems a couple of years ago. The poem was “Homesick” and I love it. I read it at an annual poetry reading group in Sydney — but not nearly as well as Mr. Stern. I just found an audio of him reading “Roses” and again, that wonderful rhythm — like a jazz poem. Keep them coming, Mr. Stern. Sincerely, Patricia

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