Wednesday, July 9, 2014

and they open


by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Peonies at Dusk

by Jane Kenyon

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

"Our own life has to be our message."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

We've been listening to the messages of peonies, putting our ear to them, as though they were conch shells whispering about the sea.

We have several varieties of peonies in our yard. Rob has been taking photographs of the big pink cloud-like ones.

Last night, I dreamed I was asked to give a poetry reading, and someone handed me a copy of my book, but I didn't remember writing any of the poems in it. They'd wanted me to read some older poems, but I had no recollection of them, and began to suspect it was some trick to make me mad. (More mad, I suppose). Like something out of Gaslight. I tried to read, but couldn't pronounce some of the words, which I also suspected weren't real words, but made up ones. One of the poems was an abstract image of a bear, and this was requested specially by a child who was very disappointed when I couldn't read the picture.

Well, aren't you glad I don't share my dreams here every morning?

So, thinking about old poems, I'll leave you with an old one of mine, from my collection Still, which is one I published myself a million years ago:


by Shawna Lemay

Famous magenta oafs.

The gods at the movies
during the sad parts
throw down these
tear soaked kleenex cabbages
limp, sotted things.

Petals languish on petals
like therapists' divans.

Peonies refuse to understand the irony.

The performance at the funeral of peonies
is sensual
fraught with languorous gaiety
drunk flappers.

More like clouds,
peonies think they are silent film stars
it's all over-acting with them
you never really know the peony at all.

What does a peony die of?
Official cause
the heart, a fallen soufflé.


  1. Fabulous. Even your wacky dreams.

  2. Oh my goodness! Gorgeousness all over. The poems - your poem! Thank you.

  3. Beautiful, post! Love peonies! Love all the poems here, but yours especially! I do enjoy Mary Oliver, but sometimes feel that she is over quoted. (Just my own bias I know!) Just wanted to let you know that I ordered your "Blue Feast" and found it delicious, if bittersweet.
    It's been a long while since I read a book of poetry at one sitting, so engaged I was with your words. I wrote several manuscripts of poems in my 30's and 40's and sent them around to journals and publishers. At the time I felt that my lack of "professional" credentials made me easy to pass by, and that academia was too ingrown. I took up painting instead, so many of your poems resonate with me. Thanks so much for the great read!

  4. Thank you all :)

    Marie, it's interesting how many writers end up leaving words for art/painting etc. And yes, I know what you mean about Mary O. But then I think she does bring so many people to poetry who wouldn't otherwise read it.

    Thank you for being here.


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