A Poppy

written by, and read by, © Peter Howard;
first published in The Interpreter's House magazine 1997, also (in modified form) in collection Game Theory
You can also see an animated version of this poem.

We went into a village where violets had just broken out.
Snipers were exchanging samphire,
and there were scenes of carnation everywhere.
I saw someone running with a bunch of live geraniums.
Suddenly there was a burst of chrysanthemum,
and honeysuckle crackled along the hedgerows.
Children were covered in crocus and bluebells;
there were old men waving ancient ivy.
Those unable to arm themselves with daffodils
made do with tulips, cyclamen, anything they could lay their hands on.
Then we heard that a buttercup had landed on the hospital.
We rushed to the scene: patients were emerging, dahlia and lilac,
some with periwinkle or lesser celandine.
It was jasmine. All I could think was "Is there no myrtle?
When will common hawthorn prevail?"
But there was nothing we could do but willow and broom.

By the end of the day there were hundreds lying on makeshift beds of roses.
         Pyracantha, Euphorbia gorgonis,
         Viola tricolor, Aconitum napellus,
         Amaranthus caudatus,
         Yucca aloifolia, Yucca gloriosa,
         Salix babylonica,

And afterwards the generals awarded themselves petals.
* Deadnettle, Firethorn, Gorgon's head, Heartsease, Helmet flower, Love-lies-bleeding, Spanish bayonet, Spanish dagger, Weeping willow, Wormwood