Today's poem is by Michael J. Rosen

On Japanese Beetles

Abstractly, the concept of sharing persuades.
You divvy up a garden into yours
and all the rest beyond your control.

Cherries above the ladder's reach belong
to birds; likewise, you forfeit those closest
to the ground, which untold deer will claim.

The deer's take you offset with the beasts'
beauty, with vague atonement for a race
with longer memory of this land than you.

The birds, too, are redeemed within our eyes
and ears, and for the meals they make of what
we nominate as pests. But nature's never

asked that we, of all creation, weigh
each species in its balance; mercifully,
no other has assessed our own.

But what of creatures we cannot justify?
Mornings, armed with a bucket of water and soap,
you comb the rose beds, plucking what seems to be

the sunlight's glint upon the leaves (if only
it were something so beneficent or brief),
but is, instead, Popilla japonica,

a nearly hundred-year-old accident,
buried in the burst heart of a rare blossom,
or flensing a leaf to its veinous skeleton.

Hard as it is, you must train yourself,
just as you have trained each hybrid rose
and still forbear its yearly disappointments

(black spot, mildew, winter kill),
that every drowning is not a victory,
either for roses or for humankind.

The next morning, the bucket's a putrid slurry,
while bushes radiate with pestilence
as though your intervention were nothing but

a forbidding cloud in a sun-bright sky.
How many mornings, roses, deaths, defeats
until you can resign yourself to choice:

uproot the roses and tend your dream of perfection—
continual blooms in every fragrance and hue—
or keep the roses, and like the beetles, return

each summer to your godforsaken lot.

Copyright © 2002 Michael J. Rosen All rights reserved
from The Southwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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