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.