Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Last Peony

The Last Peony

The cold crawled in and flowers fell.
No charm of mine could bring them back, no
hex on the wind would keep it warm.
The withering came, creeping up my neck and so
I stirred the dark and began to make;

the face of a moon child, round, unmarked,
to wear, first try and somewhat
skewed, one eye too old, but
no one sees a child, you know,
except to swallow its light.

Then feathers and furs, white and blue,
a yellow brooch of badger skull,
a peony from a peacock's eye, twined real
with dry heart's blood; but still
alone, I stirred and made again.

From cat's fingerbones and casts of worms
three pearl alpacas, from the spilled wheat
my snake-spine pig, from snailshell opalescent
my solemn pachyderm--six weeks I spent
knotting howdah-fringe with quicksilver.

I the maypole round which they danced,
they my partners on their living strings,
each strand my soul, each hoof my hand;
held like eggs, I smoothed their ears, intent
upon their amaranthine tale, until the sound

of their gentle deaths
broke my looking glass heart.
The peony cracked and reddened the skull.
I wait now, alone in the dark and child
no more, still til the flowers come again.

~October 2017

for Fireblossom's Spellcasting

Process notes: The image which inspired this poem is called Witch in Winter, by Sachiyo Aoyama. Here is the site from which it comes, and the only bio I could find of this young Japanese artist.

In the language of flowers, the peony signifies good fortune, prosperity, and a happy marriage, and in Victorian times, bashfulness. With a long history as symbols in both Western and Eastern mythology, their bark and roots were also believed to have medicinal properties, including the ability to 'cool the blood,' and ease the pain of childbirth.

 Image: Witch in Winter, 2010, © Sachiyo Aoyama  All rights reserved. Fair use.


  1. What a great inspiration from the image and the poem flows so well, such a delight to read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Girl, you broke my heart with this one. You made me cry. Such a portrait of innocence in a world that doesn't allow it long, of beauty created and lost, summoned and released. I am very glad that I waited to post mine before I read this; I would have simply sent my broken pens floating away on some pond somewhere instead. Stellar stellar stuff, Joy.

    1. Thank you Shay. I always want to do my best for you, BFF.

  3. How to begin to offer up words without quoting the poem itself. The is a deep reverence and a summoning of ancient ways present here. There is pain. There is beauty.There is the knowledge that perhaps the craft always requires both.Superb work.

  4. I didn't look at the image before reading the poem, I never do. I love the seeing the poetry become in the words and then in the image. And this piece was glorious to experience (especially after learning the title of the painting). For I had already seen the witch weaved winter in your poem, readied her world until the spring, casting natural magic--scary, beautiful, full of life and bones and death and blood... and blooming.

    This is perfect.

    1. Thanks! Yes, I didn't want to appropriate the title--I wanted the poem to just be the witch in winter--I'm so glad you saw that. But then you see a lot, my dear Magaly.

  5. Heartbreakingly beautiful work, Joy. Wow. I am speechless.

  6. Ooooh.. you certainly had me enthralled by the weaving of this spell. It takes arcane to a new level and does so with the most beautiful language. The looking-glass heart really got me at the end.

  7. A flower like this is its own moonlight, cooling the blood & calming birth-labor: As all spells and charms, it redresses a raging sea with three drops of salt water. This is arch verbal territory for a hedge-witch and as such both the most magical and fraught: What does still charm, how much potency is left? My Otherworld seems poisoned by the Anthropocene right now, I love how this remains faithful to the charmed imagination of the child, laying it all back out in a sort of Indian summer satch-light before giving a hard nod to November. An odd old faith, wizened and wise. Shines on in the dark, friend. Still a peony.

    1. Thanks B. Your words mean a lot. I believe your well is deep enough that it can detoxify a little poison, even this current rank one, and turn it to use. The painting spoke to me, and I had to answer it--and it's always a gift when that happens. Perhaps by looking both outside and into ourselves, not looking away, we find what lasts is what we make, even if some of it must die along the way.

  8. You have such a way of making decay sound delicate and elegant.

  9. There are so many layers here. Of course the flower language, but even more the labor of making the spell in a doll. Somehow I feel that even the best spells will falter... The language is spellbinding in itself

  10. Hauntingly beautiful
    weird and wonderful
    sad and sinister.



  11. the face of a moon child, round, unmarked,
    to wear, first try and somewhat
    skewed, one eye too old, but
    no one sees a child, you know,
    except to swallow its light

    Sadly for so many children they blink ancient eyes in cherubim faces..
    I didn't know their could be such artful expression of decay.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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