Sergeant Cuff names a rose ‘Catherine Earnshaw’

Marie Marshall


Strife always comes too soon, to hell with
single spies! The catlike tread in Whitechapel,
the single shoeprint in mud, the sky of Norfolk,
the helter and skelter to outrace a team of Slovaks,
the inch-by-inch through flock wallpapers fingertip
to thumb in measurement becomes (in a mind)
the navigation of deltas; so carefully trace in
beautiful serifs, italic, on the bald label thus:
C A T H E R I N E   E A R N S H A W,

and kiss the petals. Sepals, the cupping hand,
the necessary, a map of theosophism, a magnificent
ice garnered from the profits of Thornton’s of Milton,
carried in a sweethearts bosom to Sevastopol,
rumoured in opiate dreams thus: ’m cmng fr y,
my lst lve, my dmnd, my chng trsr, brth fr m.
O lobes of the calyx, o stamen, o evening pink,
o Thorne, style and stem, morning pink, shades
of skyleap from Nell Trent’s cheek to blood

[Cuff, porlocked by the arrival of a telegram,
“Assistance needed urgent at Rue Morgue,”
packs nothing but a slim valise and leaps to
his old calling!] all the time making Thesauri
of redness to populate his diary prose; he laughs
at his conceit and at the sour syntax of his dreams,
wonders who’s concealed behind the firescreen
ready in ambuscade; and yes, he finds to be torn
between home/rose and the great detection game.

There are no blind allées, no cryptogrammed
plaint on “Juwes”, just broad Haussmann blvrds
and little back-rue cafés where dwarved painters
pick out night belles and dancers to immortalise —
and though Cuff may unveil, or pluck from a
sweetheart’s bosom, the name of the murderer,
(shake hands with Dupin), a Svengali or a simian,
he reflects on the ol’ delta journey, the long century,
my rose, my Catherine. On. His. Moustached. Lip.



MARIE MARSHALL is an Anglo-Scot in late middle age. She has a humdrum 9-5, and she writes to keep what’s left of her sanity. She has had three novels published (one more pending) and two collections of poetry, one of which was nominated for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize.