Roses and Thorns

Four interlocking poems, published in 2019 at Mammouth Poetry which has an “all or nothing” acceptance policy. You can go read them over there (always appreciated, along with the rest of the issue) or continue below.

This set of poems was written in late 2017, and the imagery of their metaphor has become firmly embedded in my personal cosmology and symbolism.

“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

Published by

Elena Wolf

Elena Wolf - or Elena Nola, for poetry - is an MBTI type alignment mentor, relationship coach, and Norse-tradition shaman. In 2005 she received her B.A. in English and Plan II from the University of Texas at Austin, and in fall 2020 completed a year-long training as a 4 People Within mentor. Around that same time she began training in shamanic facilitation with Dr. Dario Nardi and has been running journey groups on her own since summer of 2021. You can read more about her professional work at Her poetry can be found at

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