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Peonies -- Mary Oliver

Guest poem sent in by Vidur
(Poem #1234) Peonies
 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?
-- Mary Oliver
I'm a little behind on my minstrels reading, so I just got to the poem
by Louis Gluck that Alan sent in (Poem #1224). To borrow from his dead-on
comment, the truly wonderful nature poets "say something beyond description
while still keeping one's description exact".

I recently discovered Mary Oliver at a used book sale, and simply had to
send in one of her poems. A celebrated American poet, she won the Pulitzer
in '84. Some of the poems are exquisite.

'Peonies' is from the book 'New and Selected Poems', which earned her
the National Book Award for poetry. It is perhaps more representative
of her style and themes than 'Wild Geese' is, although the latter is
her most quoted poem (and I see was run on Minstrels some time ago).

I can't really speak for anyone else, but I do wish that I could be
'wild and perfect for a moment', even if I'm 'nothing forever' after.

best,
:v:

[Martin adds]

This is one of those rare poems that packs a little extra punch in both its
opening and its closing lines. Indeed, despite the poised beauty of "wild
and perfect for a moment, before they are nothing forever", I think my
favourite line in a lovely poem is "the green fists of the peonies are
getting ready to break my heart". Poignant, yet as Alan said and Vidur
concurred, an undeniably exact description.

151 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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