Peonies

by Carolyn Scarbrough

Last week, their bulbous buds were
fisted tight and now their extravagance drags
across the sidewalk and dirt, sweetness
riddled with ants. At night the fresh-waxed
cars of prom-going teens pass by, girls
in lavish dresses that will brush all night over
thresholds and the tops of boyfriends’
shoes. The weight of ripeness, the living as if
it’s all a feast, then these soiled tattered petals


which remind me of a remarkable elderly woman
brushing a hair behind her ear, lovely still and strong
still, but underneath, biology shredding the strong heart,
the quick mind.


All night the boys drive by, calculating
how to remove expensive dresses that the girls’
bodies are unaccustomed to. The girls submit to
the evening gowns, every move accompanied by odd pullings,
rubs and rustles, the gowns altering everyday movements-


the careful car exit, the required lift to climb stairs, the simple lack
of a pocket or comfortable shoes. Do they see my young
girls watching and pointing excitedly?


They are princesses, the happily ever-afters
driving by in freshly waxed cars with boys in ties
and tuxedos. In our yard, my own daughters
are drawn to the statuesque iris,
the shouty tulips, and I must lead them


to the peonies, raise the ant infested heads
to their noses and see their surprise as
they inhale again and again.

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| Carolyn Scarbrough

Carolyn Scarbrough has published in Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, Sundog, Tar River Poetry, Conduit, Connecticut River Review, High Desert Journal,   Minnesota Review, and The Southeast Review. She has an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars, works as a pediatric ICU nurse, and is the mom to five kids, two dogs and the cat. Basically, she says, she writes despite all the reasons to not write, much like a willful child!