Monday, June 18, 2007

Today's poem - Weeds and Peonies by Donald Hall

Almost exactly a year ago, my white peony bloomed. I had just put it in a glass bowl when I turned on the Public Radio station, and there was an interview with the new US Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. I was astounded to hear him read a poem I hadn't heard before called Weeds and Peonies.

I just went outdoors, and there was the first white bloom of this year.




Weeds and Peonies
by Donald Hall

Your peonies burst out, white as snow squalls,
with red flecks at their shaggy centers
in your border of prodigies by the porch.
I carry one magnanimous blossom indoors
and float it in a glass bowl, as you used to do.

Ordinary pleasures, contentment recollected,
blow like snow into the abandoned garden,
overcoming the daisies. Your blue coat
vanishes down Pond Road into imagined snowflakes
with Gus at your side, his great tail swinging,

but you will not reappear, tired and satisfied,
and grief’s repeated particles suffuse the air —
like the dog yipping through the entire night,
or the cat stretching awake, then curling
as if to dream of her mother’s milky nipples.

A raccoon dislodged a geranium from its pot.
Flowers, roots, and dirt lay upended
in the back garden where lilies begin
their daily excursions above stone walls
in the season of old roses. I pace beside weeds

and snowy peonies, staring at Mount Kearsarge
where you climbed wearing purple hiking boots.
“Hurry back. Be careful, climbing down.”
Your peonies lean their vast heads westward
as if they might topple. Some topple.

9 comments:

  1. Peonies - they are my favourites. I have a bouquet on my dining room table of my white peony - called Mother's Choice.
    Thanks for including the beautiful poem.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your first white and perfect peony blossom with me Nan! And the poem. It brightened my Tuesday morn.

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  3. Aren't peonies incredibly sweet?

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  4. Thank you all. I do love peonies. I have only a couple white ones, and the others are pink. I think I need to transplant the white one, since it seems to be stretching to get sunlight. The poem is so sad and so lovely. And I love the use of the word, "topple." It is just perfect.

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  5. My peonies didn't bloom this year! I think the late frost hurt the buds. There's always next year, though. :)

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  6. Les, that's the wonderful thing about gardening.

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  7. This poem, and many by Mary Oliver, use such beautiful images in portraying grief. Hall's wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, died in 1995. I treasure my copy of her Collected Poems. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

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  8. I've just come back to this post after following the links from another (in Jan. 2010). Re-reading the poem, I see I missed the sadness and grief. I especially like these words:

    but you will not reappear, tired and satisfied,
    and grief’s repeated particles suffuse the air —
    like the dog yipping through the entire night,
    or the cat stretching awake, then curling
    as if to dream of her mother’s milky nipples.

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  9. Les, most of his work is about grief, sadness, longing. Thank you for coming back to read the poem again. I think it is one of his very best.

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.