Why must I tell you this story, O little one
You’re just a bud-of-a-girl, who knows nothing
Now you are full-faced, bright as sun
Now you open your skirts pink, layered, brazen
Suffering is alchemy, change is God
Now you droop your head, heavy with rust
Sit, contemplate, what did Buddha say?
Old age, sickness, death, no one owns eternity
Detach, detach, look away from the sun
Let your petals fall aimlessly
Don’t despair, little one, we are done
Copyright © 2016 by Marilyn Chin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“In Beijing, a student named Lin gave me a vase of huge, gorgeous peonies for my birthday. I went away for a few days and returned to a disaster! The peonies had wilted so terribly that they made me cry. Alas, the shock of recognition. Buddha warned us about ‘old age, sickness and death.’ All living beings, poets and peonies alike, must meet our eventual demise!”
Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. The author of six poetry collections, she currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2016-04-19
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/peony