War on the Roses

Last year, I spent a whole day in the back yard
trying to evict the roses from their hard,  drought-cracked beds.
My goal, (I guess) , was to plant vegetables or succulents in their place. something useful, something hardy.
And besides, those roses are diseased as fuck, I told myself. When they bloomed,  IF they bloomed they wore dirty neon pink and yellow tie-dye shirts, like crooked sideshow hippies.

“It’s for the greater good” I said, taking my spade in hand, and thus I began my eviction proceedings.

The smaller rose bushes on the far right of the bed came out easy enough. I dug up their tuber feet, and hacked and whacked with my hedge clippers until there was nothing left but holes.

The last rose bush,  however, which I presumed was the Big Mama Bush,  met me and my garden spade with surprising ferocity.
After whacking her down to the nubs, I started digging mightily.
As soon as I got deep enough into the soil,  I put my foot on her underroots,  and pushed with all my might and this is where we brawled.



I should have known she was stronger than me.
Perhaps with a shovel, things would have gone down differently.
I yanked, kicked, yelled “Motherfucker give it up, bitch!!”
Big Mama Rose stayed strong. I managed to sever a few roots, and kick her askew.
But I couldn’t dislodge her.

Eventually, sweating, exhausted, I collapsed next to her.
Two banged up prize fighters, trying to catch a breath.
I stared into the earth where her roots were jutting out from the soil
like middle fingers. My own fingers were all blisters.
I may wage many idiotic battles in my life, but thank god  I know when to accept defeat.

“You win,” I said, patting Big Mama Rose on her snapped spine.  “Good game.”

And then  I left her there, half dug up, and cut to the nubs.
I didn’t water her.
I assumed she would just die off. That after several months of drought
and the licking I gave her, she’d wither and die.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.


One year later, she’s thriving, and better than ever!
She’s spitting out babies, her blooms extra potent, extra gaudy
almost mocking.

I’m not bothered anymore by the roses.  Big Mama Rose is no longer my enemy
but my totem.
I’m amazed at what blooms of  life can burst violently
from violence and wreckage.
How severed roots can flip the bird
How drought, aphids and middle-aged women with garden spades
Have fought to destroy her.
How beauty finds a way to triumph over destruction, always.





About ArleneShirlee

Hello. I live in Oakland. I write, I rap, I play drums, and I do some neat party tricks.
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