War of the Roses

Rose bushes, alike in dignity,
In some fair garden where the grass is green,
Each bound within its patch.
To the west, at the front,
The white roses bunched.
To the east, the red rose occupied
An earthen strip along a hedge.
And dotted in islands across this land,
More roses, with colours of every hue,
And different flowers, who kept their views
To themselves, in languages no one else knew;
The honeysuckle trained to a wall;
The violets, unaware how the roses next door
Would violate, intimidate,
Should circumstances allow.

The white roses thought themselves pure.
Inter-breeding would not be allowed,
Despite their appearance arising by
The unnatural crossing of pollen; far be it
For them to acknowledge that white
Is the sum of all colours.
They needed more room to grow, so they claimed.
Other roses in the garden weren’t so sure.
The dog roses, those dogs of war, demanded confrontation.
“Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
“And what if we want to expand?” said the reds.
“We’ll divide up the beds. Agree boundaries,” the others said.

The sweet peas and pansies allied to form
A crescent in front of the reds.
The whites were hemmed in by the apple trees.
For a while, all seemed appeased.
And life and death in the garden
Went on in the usual way,
As insect killed insect, and bird killed insect, and cat killed bird.
The flowers didn’t stray, with the help of some god,
Who kept the peace with string and rod,
As if he had a plan.
He stemmed the growth, he kept control,
He plucked the daisies from the lawn.
The lilies stayed in the pond.
Bleeding hearts were held in containers,
The roses stayed in their beds.
But the reds already spilled over the hedge to the east.
And the whites had their eyes on the garden next door.
Not that this mattered, for the god
Would cut off their heads for their beauty,
Or lack of, when time had withered them down.
Then new war, like the seasons,
Would come again.

Howard Benn