STEMS OF WHITE PEONIES AND PRUNING SHEARS by Edouard Manet and Sal Buttaci
STEMS OF WHITE PEONIES AND PRUNING SHEARS
Painting by Edouard Manet (1864)
Poem by Salvatore Buttaci (1994)
We play the game sometimes
of divining the alter egos
of your garden flowers:
What they resembled
on their tall green stems,
what they might have been
if only they could have decided
for themselves in the pre-garden
before they were seeds,
when God in the waiting place
held fragilely to the thought
of what they would become.
Yesterday you laid two white peonies
on the worktable and called me
from an afternoon nap, saying
Tell me what you see!"
Groggy from interrupted sleep,
but always pleased to please you.
I study the two peonies,
the black pruning shears,
while you stand, arms folded,
"It seems to me," I begin, then pause
long enough to tease you.
"It seems to me," I begin again,
"two lambs have taken to their
pasture sleep, where we come upon them
resting atop summer mounds of grass.
They face each other for comfort,
for safety's sake,
or perhaps to reap direct rays of sunlight.
Yes, I see two lambs."
"And the shears? What about the shears?"
you want to know.
"What are they? What would they have been
had they not been pruning shears?"
"They are not pruning shears today,"
I tell you, smilingly.
"While the lambs count people
leaping over tall fences,
while the lambs ease into
a quiet peaceful sleep,
the herdsman comes with sharp clippers
and rouses them into an open-eyed
stillness and shears away their wool,
leaving them naked lambkins
trembling in the sun.
"No! No! Not fair!" you say.
"The shears cannot be shears
But when I tell you how once
we kissed and played this game
of guessing what that kiss could be,
we both swore it would stay a kiss,
not ever could it be goodbye
or whatever that kiss might have been
if the two of us had never
come to name each other
and claim that kiss forever.
The above poem first appeared in my book Impressions: 13 French-Painting Poems (Saddle Brook, NJ: New Worlds Unlimited), 18-21.
Salvatore Buttaci’s two collections of flash fiction 200 Shorts and Flashing My Shorts are both published by All Things That Matter Press and are available in book and Kindle editions at http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet
His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems http://tinyurl.com/76akl73
Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.
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