Dorothy Parker: One Perfect Rose

I love the nod of sarcasm here, “A single flow’r he sent me, since we me”. This “since we met” is, what I believe to be her saying “that’s all he gave me, just one piddly rose.” Already we get a sense of her wanting something more for herself and from her “he”. In just a few words she does what Raymond Carver does in Cathedral with his “This blind man,” (emphasis mine) – we get an immediate look into the writer’s character, their state of mind, their attitude.

This is reinforced with “All tenderly” in the second line. There’s something of an attitude here by putting “all” in front of it, and what “all” evokes contrasts nicely with “tenderly” since “all” isn’t a very tender word to describe something.

The third line makes me think her “he” just bought this rose because it’s still wet and she’s not fooled by his lack of real effort in giving her something of real meaning, but it could also be taken earnestly in that it is, in fact, a perfect rose, but she’s just not interested in it. Who cares if it’s perfect? What does it matter to her if it’s perfect? Is it going to change how she feels about anything?

“Floweret” continues this ironic tone because the rose is now just a tiny flower, it’s small and (while tender), it’s pretty much useless in it’s power to sway our poet’s feelings. “One “little flower” ain’t gonna swing my hips any harder, honey!” I imagine her saying, sassily.

Line 6 is a bit more difficult because it feels layered in meaning, like a rose petal. She uses the word “leaves” not just in the literal sense of a plant’s leaves, but I kept thinking she is alluding to her leaving him, as if “he” knows she is “leaving” based on her attitude up to this point. He’s a day late and a dollar (limousine) short on this serenade, and all he has is his “heart enclose” (enclosed) which we’ve already seen compared to a little, fragile flower that she’s not very impressed with. In the end he’s not very imaginative in his display of love “Love long has taken for his amulet” this rose, perfect as it may be.

And we end with the payoff of her exasperation, “Why is it no one ever sent me yet”, to show us how she longs for something better than a flower, but then we get another twist in that she wants a “limousine” which is an odd choice. Culture almost certainly sees limousines differently now than when she wrote this, but by imagining the author also having a stunted imagination for what love should entail (he a flower, she a fancy car), it could be said nothing is a substitute for love itself. No gift or display is as good as the real thing and we are all missing the mark everyday by just showing love and not actually loving.