For John, on his 25th
When the birds start at it,
and light comes on at 5,
it is impossible not to wake, not to
meander around the early house
only noting pots of coffee,
trash cans, cats let out,
in, the peonies in tawdry bloom,
dozens crashed over on their stems
with no one idle enough
to bolster them.
We’ll have to stake them up
next year, their fringed
diameters, easily the span
of my large, splayed hand.
Tiny sheets in disarray,
shade of my bloated gown,
or birth fluid
with a skosh of blood, that
thick, waxy covering
guarding your entry
as you came ominously silent into this world,
fully formed and beautiful, but not breathing
yet. Tiny hope to blossom
when the needle plunged into your soft chest,
shocking you into life
as my mother was once shocked back
into hers—for a while anyway—
a click between what was
and is, and could
be. Your father brought
an armload from the farm.
I propped myself up on the wing of my pillow, craving
to smell something other than you and me.
Are they white, or fading pink?
Already what I’ve cut are drooping
over my counter, as if saddened
to be destined only for water,
for only this
brief bloom of my attention
as they fill the house with your birthday.
(Wendell, Peonies, page 2, stanza continued)