Peonies by Sarette Danae


This is the fourth poem I’ve tried to write
about peonies. In one version, they were “closed fists”
and in the next “nature’s scepter.” The most recent
refused metaphors, attempting instead a transcribed timelapse
of a bouquet we brought home from our trip to the farmer’s market.
Within hours the buds had opened, layers of red and pink peeled back,
pressed together in a vase that before looked comically large.
We marveled at their expanding every time we passed by, but by morning
They were already fading, stems soft as they broke and capsized;
the kitchen counter now covered with fallen petals and dusted pollen.
I tried to analyze what these peonies symbolized: life’s brevity, time’s passage,
the crest and fall of a lover’s passion. But all this meaning making felt trite,
felt like trying too hard. Because a peony is just a peony.
Except for when you waited patient, arms full of grocery bags,
While I picked the perfect bundle — and took them from me gently
To carry as we walked home.

by Sarette Danae

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this narrative lulls us into thinking that this poem will be a simple listing of poetic effort, but then the emotional wave of the last three lines rises up to surprise even the most jaded reader.