And I remembered the cry of the peacocks
-Wallace Stevens

A woman’s fingers have quilted
red petals into triangles.
In an opposite muslin square

a trapunto shadow will rot
faster than a peony bowl carved
from a single piece of white jade.

Buds, tight as a baby’s fist,
exploded into layers of velvet,
dark and cool as wine,

exposing thoughts of the dead
for Memorial Day. By June
petals littered the ground

like the nest of a bird in molt.
In the fresh light, gravestones
of children float,

honored with white peonies
like the christening gown
of my father’s older sister

who died, or the white on white
of an albino peacock’s fan.
One time my brother tore up

a blossom and laughed
as petals fluttered
in the sunlight. I remember

the peacock crying, my brother
holding a tail feather and smiling.
Sometimes a blossom dropped and dried

until no one knew if it had been
a camellia or a rose, the color of blood
that blackens sausage and bruises.

Psychologists say we forget
the feel of pain. But I search
this compost of color for memories

the rain hasn’t leached away.
Peonies don’t grow in my yard now
but I hear the peacocks all summer.

I visit the one that lives forever
in the corner of a Tiffany window
studying the red hollyhocks in a glass garden.