White peonies | By Reginald Dwayne Betts

That’s how it goes, one morning
The ground is only the ground, & then
The green bursts through the rich brown silt.
I learned the word silt when I was starving
For something: fools would call it love,
And I’d say it was a time machine, envy
For a few days, months, years, when the regrets
Didn’t bloom like that ground thing
Which I can barely name. Tell me how these
Peonies migrated from Asia to my garden,
Have found their way into my line of sight
Despite the prison and all the suffering I don’t speak
De. Everything happens so suddenly, that’s what I mean,
When sadness because of a beauty in front of you
Eyes so amazing you ask your friends what to name
This flower in front of you. I admit, I pretended
To be god. Give a name to this thing that gives
Me joy. I called him Sunday, then I called him
After my firstborn. Have you ever been so surprised
With the unexpected. that you wanted someone
Blessing to name the thing? Peonies are so
Beautiful they scare me. They grow on thin
Stems longer than my arms and the flowers
Are heavier than the rods. But is it not always so?
The beauty of the world so heavy that we are afraid of the world
Can’t stand it? & yet why wouldn’t we
Pray when you notice it? Why do we forget this
Naming is the first kind of prayer, even though white
The flowers turn into fragrant oil against my skin.

Colin L. Johnson