Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

Peonies — Julia Wendell

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)

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