The War of Flowers

George ‘Fish’ Alphonse: without doubt a cultural icon in St Lucia. Perhaps Derek Walcott’s recognition of his work while Fish is still with us will serve as a hint to those responsible for dishing out national awards.

(for Fish Alphonse)

The battle of the flowers
is odorous and sweet;
they share each other’s powers:
the rose, the marguerite.

The croton hoists between them
its flag of many colours,
no music for its emblem
no army like the others;

who with sharp shouts and answers
will march to fighting words,
with admirals and commanders,
sashes and wooden swords.

But one thing that is curious
is that they never meet,
they are far, but still furious,
the rose, the marguerite.

Their clash is months apart
but soft each flower falls,
the rose with its red heart
the daisy’s with its waltz.

With anthems loud and heated
and cries that dare defeat,
neither one is defeated:
the rose, the marguerite.

They are, as none supposes
together not apart;
violet is the daisy, the rose is
the banner of the heart.

Would that our scarred earth could contain
such a sweet violence
these flowers fighting to remain
not enemies, but friends.

Ah violet of the daisy,
no victory, no defeat;
their woundless wars amaze me,
the rose, the marguerite.

—Derek Walcott, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is not Derek Walcott’s first poem published exclusively in the STAR. Several years ago, at the time of the Jalousie controversy, he wrote “Litany to the Pitons,” also reproduced in Rick Wayne’s Lapses & Infelicities.

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