>A Soft Opening

>Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, so I wrote one final poem to commemorate it. I was going to illustrate the poem with photographs of my blossoming peony bush…. But I decided to wait, at least until tomorrow. You’ll understand my reason when you read the poem. So, I’ll illustrate it with these beautiful ancient paintings instead.

And now, for the poem.

A Soft Opening

My peonies didn’t come out
For Pascha this year.
Well, one of them did—
The matriarch peeked through
Her dark green casing just enough to see,
Just enough to test the warmth of the sun
On her blossoming inner petals.

That’s where the nymphs live—
Those mischievous fairies
For whom the plant is called
Shame,
Or Bashfulness
In the Language of Flowers.

Named for Paeon—
Physician to the Gods on Mount Olympus—
Who was gifted with the flower by the
Mother of Apollo, but then
Turned into one himself by
Warring factions amongst the gods,
The men gods, I might add.

Her seeds flew across cultures to become
A national emblem in China
Where she’s known as the
Flower of Riches and Honor.
Then to Japan where her root was used
To treat convulsions in kampo—
A Japanese nod (yes) to Chinese medicine.

So this Bright Week I keep watching
For her blossoms to unfold,
But they keep waiting for the sun
To warm the air, to tease them
Into dancing—uninhibited—
In their birthday suits
In my front yard.

Maybe they’re camera-shy,
Afraid of what my lens might reveal
To the world of poets and bloggers
And voyeurs, like me and Annie Liebowitz,
Too eager to reveal the hidden beauty
Of our subjects to the lusty, waiting world.

Shame on you, Billy Ray,
Lying there with your baby girl
As Annie’s lens opens her budding
Maidenhood before the nymphs
Are ready for their coming out—
Before they are strong enough to
Bear the scrutiny of the watching world.

Shame on me, exposing the buds
Of my young peony bush too soon,
Impatient to see their beauty,
To smell their heady perfume
And to touch their tissue-soft
Petals before they are ready
For my embrace.

Maybe I’ll wait for their
Grand Opening,
But more than likely
I’ll be ready with my Lumix—
The aperture low—for a soft opening
Tomorrow, on May Day, in honor of Flora,
The Roman Goddess of flowers…
A convenient excuse
For my premature indulgence.

I’ve been reading reviews of my favorite poet’s latest book, Unmentionables. Here’s one, in a blog called “The Shelf Life.” If you scroll down to the end of the post, you can read my comment… where I disagree with the reviewer about Beth Ann’s poem, “First Warm Day in a College Town.”

REMINDER: Beth Ann will be signing and reading from her book at Burke’s Books in Cooper Young tomorrow night from 5-6:30 p.m. It’s the second month for the Cooper Young Neighborhood’s Cooper Young Night Out . Lots of restaurants, art galleries and shops will be open. I’ve got a table reserved at Tsunami’s for my friends and my daughter, who arrives home from her first year of grad school tomorrow night!

And yes, there will be photos from the evening… I’ll try to post them tomorrow night. Beth and I are flying to Denver early Friday morning to visit my son, Jason, for a few days, so I’ll be busy packing … if I can get my left brain to function in the euphoric trance that always follows Beth Ann’s readings! (Confused by the names? Beth Ann Fennelly is the poet. Beth (Elizabeth) Ann Cushman is my daughter. They are both amazing, talented, and beautiful, and I’m so excited that they will get to meet eachother tomorrrow night!)

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