Love and Loss in “One Red Rose” by John Prine

red rose 

One Red Rose © John Prine

1. The rain came down on the tin roof.

Hardly a sound was left from the birthday party.

The kitchen light fell asleep on the bedroom floor.

Me and her were talking softer

Than all the time before I lost her.

Picture sat on top of the chest of drawers.

Chorus: One red rose in the Bible

Pressed between the holy alphabet.

Probably wouldn’t believe you If you told me.

But what I never knew I never will forget.

2. Rainy nights get dark real early.

  Her dress was soft and her hair was curly.

  We danced around the table to the old banjo.

   Rainy nights were made for lovers.

    We lay there still beneath the covers

    And I ain’t never felt like that before.


(lyrics for “One Red Rose” posted at The Prine Shrine)

(watch a stop-action video of Prine in concert performing this song, click here.)

Tonight I wanted to write a love poem, but I just didn’t find the words within me.  Instead, I thought I’d reflect on this love song composed and recorded by John Prine in 1980, just a couple years before I “discovered” his music.

I started to analyze this song, to make note of its imaginative imagery (“the kitchen light fell asleep on the bedroom floor”) and reflect on the spiritual significance of the one red rose in the Bible (“pressed between the holy alphabet”).  Then, my mind started wandering back to past relationships, lost loves, intimate moments made more precious in the past tense.  I became lost in my reverie and again, no words were to be found.

Being alone isn’t such a bad thing.  It is often invigorating to be alone.  Being lonely, however, can be excruciating.  Debilitating.  I could go on to say the answer is to always be in a relationship – not a physically intimate one (these are too fragile and easily broken), but a spiritual one with Jesus Christ (who alone can bring us peace).  This is very true and a great comfort to us in times of need.

But sometimes in our losses even the right words are not meant to be spoken.  When Job grieved the loss of his wealth, his health, and particularly his loved ones, his friends did one beautiful and right thing.  They sat with him in silence – for 7 days.  It was only when they spoke up and tried to make sense of his tragedy that they really blew it and abandoned him in his misery.

As a pastor, I was often called upon to counsel and encourage people who had experienced great losses, including relationship losses due to divorce or separation. I tried to offer them Biblical guidance when the time was right, but often what was needed most was a listening ear, an compassionate heart and an understanding prayer.

Now, as a writer who wants to honestly share laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, I find myself somewhat at a loss.  Perhaps it would be best to turn to fiction or poetry.  Some things in life are just too sacred for memoirs.

So, I tell you what.   I’ll give myself (and you, if you’re up for it) a writing prompt.

Using the imagery of this song, particularly the line –  “One red rose in the Bible, pressed between the holy alphabet.” – write a poem or a short story.

I look forward to seeing how this takes shape and I hope some of you accept the challenge with me.  If you do, be sure to include a link back here (in the comments to this post) where we can find your work.

Now, write….


3 thoughts on “Love and Loss in “One Red Rose” by John Prine

  1. Pingback: From indytony: One red rose in the Bible, pressed between the holy alphabet…. « One Starving Activist

    • Oh, good. I sent you a comment asking to repost your story. This link is a good start, but I’d really like to feature it more prominently. It has inspired me to move further into my own story (which is moving in a somewhat similar – though also very different – direction.

      Thanks so much for your effort with this. I think it’s great.

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