Poem for the Peony

by Mary Jo Firth Gillett

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented
with the mania of owning things,
. . . Not one is respectable or unhappy over
the whole earth.
—Walt Whitman

Peonies open their untutored hearts as if to write
a treatise on passion.

The raw and sensuous peony was mentor
to Marilyn and Mae.

A magnum opus,
the peony bloom unfolds, page upon page.

The peony, one with water, knows nothing
of river.

Oscar Wilde admired the peony:
“Nothing succeeds like excess.”’

Does the opening peony write odes to the ant
or vice versa?

Martha Graham, Josephine Baker, even Elvis,
studied the moves of peony blossoms in the wind.

In the presence of the peony, fake flowers—
plastic or silk—
wither.

The dawdling schoolboy presents a peony blossom.
“Tardy” is expunged from the dictionary.


Mary Jo Firth Gillett’s Soluble Fish won the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award and she’s published four award-winning chapbooks, most recently Dance Like a Flame (Hill-Stead Sunken Gardens Poetry Award). Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Salamander, Third Coast, Green Mountains Review, and other journals as well as on the Verse Daily website. She’s won the N.Y. Open Voice Poetry Award and a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts.

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