He Planted Seven Peonies
He planted seven new peonies for me out front yesterday.
He was wearing that green flannel shirt, work-worn through in the back side, and as he threw that shovel down through the bed liner and busted up the March earth, I stood barefoot on the crumbled up sidewalk we can't afford to fix, and I thought,
"I don't know why I never bought these till now; we've been here 12 long years." I guess it felt like an extravagance at $4.97 each.
Because you hold out so long sometimes. You wait for that first job to take off, and then for the second job to turn into something that will help you heal from the first one.
You wait for your babies to figure out how to walk, holding their fat fingers while gravity yanks at them like a hungry sea. You put your hand over the coffee table corner so they don't hit their heads, and then you watch them drive off with some kids you don't even know to New Orleans for a couple of nights, and you hold your breath and say, "This is alright. I went to Berkeley younger than that." But you're scared too, blaming yourself for everything you are afraid you didn't say or didn't do and wondering if you loved them too much or too little.
You stand in the quiet kitchen and start to pick up the dirty dishes, searching for some kind of confirmation, some kind of GPA, or receipt, or sentence proving that your idealism was foolishness or something sacred, where everything ends up alright after all.
During all that waiting, I've spent $40 bucks on the stupidest things, necessities that didn't poke pretty hands up through black mulch then stretch out their arms like a little four-year-old girl yawning in church, sucking in the air her parents have exhaled while singing, "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place." But that's something she knows already, because when she opens her fingers into two handfuls of heaven-on-earth, she finds a dozen sweet ants, honey-drunk like an elder board who wasn't expecting the Living God to show up in the middle of an action plan.
And as hard as I've worked, and as much as I've failed, and as much as I've tried to recuperate, and rejuvenate, and jimmy rig, all you do to grow peonies is stick them down in good soil. That's it. And for a hundred or maybe a thousand years, it's done.