Rosalia (December 13, 1918 – December 6, 1920), was a child who died of pneumonia. Her father was so grieved by her death, he hired a famous embalmer to preserve her body. It is still nearly perfectly preserved, nearly 100 years later. This poem was written after observing a garden near her tomb, planted with the flower she was named for, Rosa multiflora, commonly called Rosalia, an especially fragrant and vigorous climbing rose.
Rosalia (Rosa multiflora)
The haughty snail rears up, large and indolent,
its creamy shell ponderous, though rakishly tilted.
The knowing eyes unfurl on stalks greyish-violet,
above tender undulate flesh, faintly quilted
as if by past misdeeds. Near a warm slate path
thrust through the damask-brown earth, a small bird
dips wings, cocks head, perches on the birdbath
shaped in the lithe innocence of a fair-haired
Roman cherub. The rose-heads swoon in the sun,
lazy petals curled inward to form delicate bowls
ravished by enormous bees, whose silvery finespun
wings vibrate, ceaseless keepers of love’s oversoul.