Many of Elizabeth Oness’ poems reflect her Irish-American Catholic childhood and her upbringing in a family of girls. Her poems are rich with salient details of family connections and coming of age. They speak simply and directly with a subtle, almost shy, unveiling of insight. Oness also writes short stories, for which she has received the 2000 Iowa Short Fiction Award, an O. Henry Prize, and a Nelson Algren Award. Oness teaches at Winona State University in Minnesota and is the director of marketing and development for Sutton Hoo Press.
My Husband, Planting Roses
Roses won’t grow here the neighbors all say–
but my husband turns the netted earth
and tills a border in the lawn.
Our first anniversary and already we know
each others’ predilections–I protest
the expense, the extravagant gesture,
he listens, smiles, does not give in.
The branchy starveling bushes begin blooming
in late spring, but in this year of flooding
a powdered whiteness coats the leaves
taking back their sheen.
Finally in August heat, I am out of temper
and idly begin to weed. The lawn is taking back
the ground he claimed, and what I pluck at
as diversion, waiting for the mail,
now becomes specific–aiming at the fescue,
stealing back this stolen space.
Three bushes of the twelve have died,
their branches blackened, waxy-ended,
but the others start to bloom again.
I’ve made this mistake before–
expecting beauty to be fragile, underestimating
the persistence of luxuriance and color.