Roadside Rivals


I love an April hedgerow’s white
and green.  The blackthorn’s bridal bloom,
the hawthorn’s vivid leaves, resume
their yearly contest.  Which is right?


Should leaf precede or follow flower?
Most plants make foliage before
their blossoms burst: leaves help restore
the bush’s winter-weakened power.


The blackthorn rashly breaks this rule
and flaunts its white before its green –
the star of every hedgerow scene,
triumphant in the springtime duel.


And yet, the hawthorn has its day
and wins my vote, I must confess:
though outshone in its modest dress
of green, it promises us May.


The blackthorn pays a Pyrrhic price
for victory: it vanishes
the summer long.  Its harvest is
the sour-blue sloe, a bitter spice.


The hawthorn gives us ‘bread-and-cheese’ –
a summer-salad, fresh and free –
and haws in autumn, remedy
(in home-made jam) for heart’s disease.


Two thorns which make … an English hedge,
the passer-by look twice or thrice,
the natural world a paradise,
an April walk a privilege.