Black Peonies – William Doreski

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment



Your dream of great black peonies

sickened you. Waking with fever

you thought you saw those ugly flowers

aloft, punctuating the sky.

Now after a near-fatal dose

of aspirin and vodka you beg me

to explain our trip to Venice,

where we found the sea receded,

canals dry, famous palazzos

remodeled with vinyl siding

and Danish Modern interiors.

You claim we traveled by bus

from Milan through Verona, then walked

across the exposed sea bed to land

at Piazza San Marco while crowds

at the outdoor cafes applauded.

We had rented a tiny house

on Calle del Lion beside

the Rio di San Lorenzo,

now dry as the other canals.

The city reeked of rotting fish.

Canal-bottoms coughed up skeletons

that had lain there for centuries.

A few days after we arrived

black peonies erupted from mud,

surprising you by growing in salt.

That’s when your fever began,

you admit, but maybe the aspirin

and vodka have confused you,

laying one dream atop another.

Venice wasn’t a dream, though.

I remember the dry canals,

the panic that seized the city

before the unforeseen low tide

ebbed and a normal tide refilled

harbor and canals and refloated

the gondolas and vaporetti.

But no black peonies. Those huge

gloomy blossoms root only

in the subconscious and not

in the canals of Venice or

anywhere else we could map,

feeding on your fever and nodding

like the saddest oncoming storms.

Man's Future in Abstract - Ernest Williamson

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