2021 First Place

McGredy’s Roses 1972

by Glen Wilson

They keen to me when I tickle
the silk chin of their petals,

I have painted these strains,
recognise the family colours,

cross-pollination, my years, my father’s,
grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

I have learned so much raising the flowers
of Portadown, this nursery also my nursery,

it has taught me that blooms follow
fallow seasons, to trust in rebirth.

I was quick to know how to work round
the thorns that guard the stem, outgrowths

of a fallen Eden, sickle-shaped hooks
I’ve found only add to the attraction

of this panchromatic swathe before me.
Whether they are called Irish Beauty

or Elizabeth of Glamis matters only
on printed cards for show,

beauty is beauty regardless of name,
next to them the hybrid tea Violet Carson

stretch out to me as if they know I am leaving,
taking my children and theirs far away.

New Zealand calls, Dunedin, Christchurch
exchanged for Belfast, Dublin,

new markets I can reach
easier than from Mid-Ulster, the air

here poisoned by a war of colours
that will kill all colours. I need to go,

go where beauty is not a luxury,
where you don’t have to be wary

when you kneel to enjoy the fragrance
of Gallicanae, Synstylae or an Arthur Bell,

for we all go, all spread out, the good soil
runs through all our fingers.