The Hour of Peonies
The Buddha says, “Breathing in, I know I am here in my body.
Breathing out, I smile to my body,” and here I am, mid-span,
a full-figured woman who could have posed for Renoir.
When I die, I want you to plant peonies for me, so each May,
my body will resurrect itself in these opulent blooms, one of les Baigneuses,
sunlight stippling their luminous breasts, rosy nipples, full bellies,
an amplitude of flesh, luxe, calme et volupté. And so are these flowers,
an exuberance of cream, pink, raspberry, not a shrinking violet among them.
They splurge, they don’t hold back, they spend it all.
At the end, confined to a wheelchair, paintbrushes strapped to his arthritic hands,
Renoir said, “the limpidity of the flesh, one wants to caress it.”
Even after the petals have fallen, the lawn is full of snow,
the last act in Swan Lake where the corps de ballet, in their feathered tutus,
kneel and kiss the ground, cover it in light.
This poem first appeared in Barbara Crooker's book, Radiance (Word Press, 2005.)
Barbara Crooker is the author of many books of poetry; The Book of Kells is the most recent. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
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