Never Say No to Peonies

In the practice I facilitate in my writing circles, I use poetry and prose as prompts to help the mind get moving, to give it something to respond to. To alleviate the stare of the blank page.

To give you an idea of what this sort of writing can look like, I’m sharing a piece below, one I wrote in response to a lovely poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Time’s Low Note by Naomi Shihab Nye

When the giant moon

rises over the river,

the cat stretches,

presses himself to the window,


He needs to go outside

into dark grass

to feel the mystery

combing his fur.

The wind never says,

Call me back,

I’ll be waiting for your call,

All we know about the wind’s address is

somewhere else.

A peony has been trying to get through to you

When’s the last time you really looked at one?

Billowing pinkish whitish petals lushly layered

Might be the prime object of the universe

Peonies in a house

profoundly uplift the house

never say no to peonies

Some days reviewing everything

from brain’s balcony

filigree of thinking a calm comes in

you can’t fix the whole street change the city

or the world

but clearing bits of rubbish possible

moving one stone


Never Say No to Peonies

A peony has been trying to get through to you.

Answer the phone and it’s a peony calling with all her fluff and fullness, asking you to come outside, play, dance.

They are some of my favorite flowers, so plump and showy, not afraid of fullness, of their own richness and lushness, not ashamed of anything, shouting out about their own beauty, so full, buxom, vital.

The peony calling me is pink—light, pastel, fat, delicate, puffed out, content in a patch of sunshine next to a porch.

She asks me to put down my load, to gaze at her beauty. To sink into her voluptuousness, to take some of it for myself.

She asks me to get soft like her, to get light, frothy.

She’s an invitation to lighten up, to relax, to drink iced tea on the porch.

She asks if all the things I’m worried about have to solved today. She wonders what would happen if I approached life as a big pink flower who only cares for sun and water, the bees who brush against her, swaying in the breeze, making people smile as they walk by.

She’s suggesting joy. No, maybe, in her very presence she quietly demands it.

She won’t last that long. She knows her petals will wilt and fall as the days get hotter but she doesn’t fret. She just asks me to join her right now. Fragrant, lush, billowing.

When she fades, she fades. So be with me now, she asks. Sit with me. Feel the sun on your face, think your thoughts. Love. Dig deep for joy. Don’t give up. I’ll bloom again and again, she says, and so will you.

Tender, soft, strong enough to withstand pelting rain.

Never say no to peonies.

Gather them in bunches. Put their fat globes in vases to dine among.

Worship them. Pray to them for their wonder, their lusciousness. Listen to their wisdom. Praise their aliveness.

Be like them. Heed their wisdom.

Never say no to peonies.

Chris ChandlerComment