Elena Nola

Roses and Thorns, a poetic sequence



Born on a bed of roses

Amidst sheets of petals

Into the embrace of thorns.

When piercing barbs are omnipresent,

They do not feel like pain;

They feel like home.

"Look at the beauty," they say,

And point to the blooms.

Such softness.

Such fragrance.

Such color -

Vibrant riots of life -

And it is, indeed, 


That is life in the briar patch:

Unrecognized pain, and a profusion of wonder.

Is it any wonder, then,

That no one sees the blood?




"Those thorns become you,"

Come the insidious whispers

As the vines wrap around

Wrist, or

Thigh, or


Black lace over moonlit skin,

Natural as midnight shadows,

And just as prone to lies.

The pretty patterns never show

The pricks and scrapes of thorns,

The praiseful words dismissing

The pain and sense of fear

As the vines sink under

Skin, or

Flesh, or


Tattoos under gothic parchment,

Embedded horror as concealed

As sin or tarnished name.

The pulsing tracery of veins 

Never seems macabre;

The twisting vines concealed

By smooth and youthful skin

As the thorns push into

Nerves, or

Blood, or


Bruises beneath silver satin,

Blooming heirloom roses,

Petals made of blood.

The thriving lines of green wood

Twine around the limbs 

And furl their leaves on bone

As the thorns






A slash of parting skin,

A welling pearl of red -

No. Not a jewel. 

A rosebud. 

As the vein opens wider,

The flower unfurls

En futuro rapiditas,

Taking only moments 

To burst in scarlet blossom,

Beauty blooming out of anguish,

So striking and so shocking,

No one sees the damage.

No wonder it attracted

A lover of the dark

Who placed the color masterfully.

Death by a thousand cuts,

A mosaic of red roses

Making art from torment.

The saddest figure ever drawn

Of a woman wrapped in garlands:

Every petal paid with pain

And no observer ever wiser. 




Skin so soft and softly pale,

Cream lit by winter's pallid sun,

Barely more than white.

But in the blinding summer blaze

The truth can't be unseen;

It bears a maze of pearly blight - 

Scars in shapes of roses.

A garden can be traced across 

The canvas of her flesh.

There a vine and here a thorn,

Blooms and buds and crossing bowers,

A bounty of those ghostly flowers.

A ghastly tale told without words

But only in their absence.

Rosebush embedded under skin,

Excised by pulling it from bones.

Up through muscle, out through nerves,

A desperate screaming purge.

How great the pain inside herself

To suffer that extraction?

How long did healing take to render

Gaping slashes into welts

And welts to moonlit tracings 

Of pain that once but is no more?

Her skin is lovely, soft and smooth,

Flawless at first glance,

But lovelier by far when eye discerns 

What lies beneath to glimpse

The horror in her past.

Born into a bed of roses,

Its seeds left in her soul.

She walks outside its confines now;

Nothing lives in her, but her.

She is but what she appears:

A dark and pale beauty

With roses in her hair.


Elena Nola is a 2005 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (English and Plan II). Her work has appeared in Riddled with Arrows, Conscious the zine, and the Texas Poetry Calendar. She prefers colors to drab, feathers to bones, and capes to coats.