Peonies: For Jill
By Joan Gelfand
She won't sell the country house. Not yet!
And not because of Locust Lake, sailboats in summer.
Alders in snow. Not because of the long view of the Poconos,
Those graduating waves of forest green fading
To watery sage tiered like a chiffon dress.
Lost in those folds, the dizzy roller coaster
Of marriage, sickness, the push pull of desire.
Paul planted peonies. She, a lover of Japanese.
Woodblock prints, bamboo, and toro nagashi:
Lit lanterns set free on a river,
Golden rice paper houses inscribed with ancestor's
Names reflecting orange glow on black water.
Vertigo. Her tears water the earth where peonies proliferate.
In life, he betrayed, but in death transmogrified,
Missed. At night, she denied him the touch
The skin he craved. You can't have it both ways,
She reminded. Just now, she wants it exactly
Both ways. Perfect in life. Perfect in death.
The condo and the country house. The peonies and the lake.
While her resentment foments like the mulch he piled on the roots.
Now that he's gone, her loneliness blooms. Tissue thin,
She is married to the million petalled profusion of pink.
The peonies are her private toro nagashi, his soul reunited
With hers. She needs, him, and his perfect peonies.
"Besides," she cries, "It's such a short season."
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