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Rebecca Alexander lives in Seattle, Washington, and works as a horticulture librarian, answering questions from gardeners around the world. The same week that two men murdered Lee Rigby on a Woolwich street, she assisted two college students in Peshawar, Pakistan, with their floricultural research. This poem is a reflection on the choices we make in the face of adversity, and the legacy we leave the world.

Raising Gladioli in Peshawar


(for Gulzar Ullah, Fawad Naeem, and all who grow

 in adverse conditions)


your mother dreamed you would grow

upright as a date palm

though your feet were estranged

from Yoruba soil

trainer-shod instead

for tarmacadam and tower blocks


they will say you were a sweet child

mild and pliant if unambitious

until a seething wind of rhetoric

blew through your empty corridors

slamming shut your soul's last open doors

landing you here, a hollow megaphone

for third-hand hatred


in Peshawar students sift the web

for guidance in building a world of flowers

Gulzar propagates a rainbow,

fingertips dusted with pollen

Fawad breeds in resistance

to pestilence and strife

but you, a continent away-


what have you become,

your palms a red we can't erase

you have laid waste a life

and with it your mother's hopes

mourners line a Woolwich roadside

with roses from allotment gardens

and bouquets grown far afield

while in her mind's eye

the dreamed tree's roots recoil and fail


and you are lost forever.


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