Magic Trick featuring Peonies
To the left of the house, a peony bush -
a great delight at five years old. PEE-on-ee.
Hilarious. But more than that, their milky-pink
petals bloomed round as the full moon. Ants
crawled in and through and around their powdery
layers, wound tight and countless, spiraling in.
To the left of the bush, a shed, a father inside
sawing something so that the dust gathered in
piles on his work table. Sawdust like a softer sand,
inviting. She watches the work a while in silence,
sawdust falling into anthills. He can’t play
right now, he says, not looking up. In the backyard
there is a defunct Barbie Jeep—found, spray painted
the shade of cherry skins, and left for the rain;
a treehouse the color of sawdust, but lonelier. This
memory can’t contain anyone else: it’s too quiet.
Eerie. In this memory, no one else is home
and her father keeps on cutting the once-trees. If
you never stop the saw, you never have to play.
That’s the trick. The ants just keep spiraling
into the petals and she returns to watching them.
This memory is quiet, but the peonies
will always be the loudest part.
after Mary Oliver
You’ve gone out with
your basket and pen
to collect violets, which
my mother calls Johnny jump-ups
and I kind-of-smile, kind-of-
wince because I know she wishes
those days with her cousins
picking wildflowers in western PA
could have lasted a little
before she left for California with my dad
and drove and drove and drove
into her memories; they
became the safest place.
I bought her a book of your poems
for her birthday. The big seven-oh
—I guess because I wanted her
to know you like I do, stepping
barefoot at dawn onto dew-dropped ground
and walking and walking and walking
into a world that is willing to hold you
line your basket
I wanted that much beauty for her.
You once told me
that the only life I could save
was my own -
but dammit, Mary. Dammit.
Kalyn Livernois is an MFA candidate at New England College. She is a prose editor at Cobra Milk and the managing editor of Variant Literature's journal. Her work has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Dust Poetry Magazine, Stone of Madness Press, CP Quarterly, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. You can find her on Twitter @kalynroseanne.
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