Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The Writers Almanac: Peonies by Jeanne Lohmann
Grandma called them pineys, and I didn't know why.
They smelled so good, the full lush petals
crowded thick, the whole flower heavy on its stem,
the leaves dark and rich and green as shade in Chatauqua Woods
where each spring I hunted for violets. What could there be
to pine for on this earth? Now I think maybe it was Missouri
she missed, and maybe that was what somebody she knew
called peonies there, before she traveled to Ohio,
a sixteen-year-old bride whose children came on as fast
as field crops and housework. Her flowers saved her,
the way they came up year after year and with only a bit of care
lived tender and pretty, each kind surprising,
keeping its own sweet secret: lily-of-the-valley, iris,
the feathery-leaved cosmos, lilacs in their white and purple curls,
flamboyant sweet peas and zinnias, the bright four o'clocks
and delphinium, blue as her eyes, and the soft peony flowers
edged deep pink. In her next life I want my grandmother
to walk slowly through the gardens in England and Kyoto.
I want to be there when she recognizes the flowers
and smiles, when she kneels and takes the pineys in her hands.
"Peonies" by Jeanne Lohmann, from Calls from a Lighted House. © Fithian Press, 2007.