Photo by Jaroslava Petrášová

“Peonies in Winter” by Lisa Higgs

Du Fu was writing the impossibility
of spring flowers, and I bore hours
spent waiting for others to finish
their lessons—a schedule of tasks 

I did not set for myself. The coldest 
stretch of winter, an absurdity, and me
the necessary vehicle, all tires and full seats. 
Once, I had a yard and garden. Flowers 

sprung out in rush of bees. Once, my wish 
to see butterfly colors, to name something 
unnoticeable to others—one petal’s ultraviolet 
blush. Now, my car idles in sharp Artic air. 

Their faces flush to spot me waiting. 
I’m nearly always on time for the ache 
of opening doors. My closing book. 
I love them so much. Blooms. Orioles. 

Their perfect songs. Du Fu has aged ageless, 
despite all that wine. Winter cants about 
on a bender. Soon enough, the bottle’s dregs. 
Its last drops will pour out in absolution

among the forget-me-nots’ first tips.
I’ll scatter rinse water over each blessed
bit of green. Backward and forward,
my mind picks straw from wide-faced 

peonies white as innumerable thick flakes 
forecast overnight. Petals, flakes, both
dropping rich in their time. Du Fu 
was right. Just don’t make it a race.

Lisa Higgs is a recipient of a 2022 Minnesota State Arts Board grant. She has published three chapbooks, most recently Earthen Bound (Red Bird). Her reviews and interviews can be found online at the Poetry Foundation, Kenyon Review, the Adroit Journal, and the Colorado Review.