Weeds and Peonies
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.
Reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin
Donald Hall is one of our foremost men of letters, widely read and loved for his award-winning poetry, fiction, essays, and children’s literature. He has published sixteen collections of poetry and has edited numerous anthologies. His poetry has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award, a Lenore Marshall Award, and the Robert Frost Medal of the Poetry Society of America. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was installed as the nation’s Poet Laureate in October of 2006. Since 1975, when he resigned his university teaching position, Hall has lived in New Hampshire, on Eagle Pond Farm, an old family house, which he shared with his wife, poet Jane Kenyon. Their life together and her tragic death from leukemia have been the subjects of many of his poems.