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Mary Rose


In the uneasy warmth of early spring

When the marshes' frogs awake and sing,

When the sun sinks down, the moon a splinter,

And night covers the last foray of winter,

And you're traveling Old Creek Road,

You’re free or with your final load,

Or you're lost or looking to be

As the stones strike off your chassis—

If you're far from home or near

And it's down Old Creek you steer:

I tell you, friend, turn up your song,

Keep on the gas and don’t be long

To leave that dark and lonesome road in dust;

Or maybe once, just if you must,

Peer past the oaks that crowd up at the bend—

Look quickly friend

And then be on your way—

To where the marsh is moonlit like the day;

In the reeds and rotting logs

And the sirens of the frogs

She's watching in her dew- and moon-washed clothes,

A girl whose name I know is Mary Rose.


If you're one without another,

If your other is no more,

And your days each end as they begin

In the home you let your own self in,

You'll brake for her, my brother,

As your hand unlocks her door,

And she hurries to you in the pane

Wrapped in her fading flowered dress,

Just on the pretty side of plain

And just this side of earthliness;

But who she is and where she's from

Or whether she is even there—

No, every pressing question

You'll never think to mention,

For soon, my friend, you're overcome

By all her dear disordered hair,

And in her eyes a grief so pure

You'd give your life to find the cure;

And then she's sitting at your side

And you only want her for your bride,

To steer as far as Old Creek goes

And hold and hold forever, Mary Rose.


She'll thank you and ask for your comb.

She's some winding miles shy of home;

And somewhere near the final turn

She'll grow to sense how much you yearn

And tell you she is spoken for

By Ray who runs her father's store:

Her wedding is a month away.

And then, my friend, what can you say?

At the farmhouse with the one dim pane—

How it seems to brave a driving rain—

She'll touch you once, just on the arm,

Then make her way across the farm

And disappear behind the door

Of the house that is her home no more;

For if you deem within your right

To visit her a second night,

To walk up to the porch alone,

The door is answered by a crone

Whose heart goes out to every son

Whose heart her Mary Rose has won.

"You're not, my son, the first to know

She'd died some thirty years ago."


She was driven home that night in spring

By a man who loved her just as he,

Her handsome boy of promise, Ray,

When their wedding was a month away.

How harsh the guttural wood frogs sing.

The peepers cry so eerily.

Was it love's despair or the April freeze

That veered his truck into the trees,

Then down into the marsh it rolled,

And Earth took both into its fold.

But what of love is ever finished,

And most of all, the unfulfilled?

When to break a heart is such a crime

It rends a bond of space and time,

Love's yearnings live on undiminished

To will on Earth what can't be willed.

And so, my friend, turn up your song

And your eyes keep on the clay and stone,

And only brake where you belong

And leave the ghosts of love alone—

Or become another man who knows

The unrequited heart of Mary Rose.


O Mary Rose. O Mary Rose.

The creek has thawed and overflows.

And though I know my love is fated

To never be reciprocated—

Not once has she remembered me—

I know that I am called to be

On Old Creek Road come early spring

To find her where the wood frogs sing;

And with her heart so broken,

The truth I know I leave unspoken,

And the truth that's only hers in turn

Is truth I never seek to learn.

She combs her dark hair while I steer

And soon I watch her disappear

In the farmhouse with its pane aglow

That lost a last hope years ago;

Then I drive on to the cemetery,

And at her stone beside the winterberry

And among the shadows of the moon

I always pray the Lord will soon—

Oh I pray the Lord will someday close

The tearful searching eyes of Mary Rose.


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