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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 19, 2016.
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

Peony

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.

Copyright © 2016 by Marilyn Chin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin

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.

by this poet

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The canary died in the gold mine, her dreams got lost in the sieve.
The canary died in the gold mine, her dreams got lost in the sieve.
Her husband the crow killed under the railroad, the spokes

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How free and lush the bamboo grows, the bamboo grows and grows
Shoots and morasses, fillies and lassies and shreds and beds and rows
O phloem and pistil, nodes and ovules
The bamboo grows and grows
Her release

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The dead piled up, thick, fragrant, on the fire escape.
My mother ordered me again, and again, to sweep it clean.
All that blooms must fall. I learned this not from the Dao,
   but from high school biology.

Oh, the contradictions of having a broom and not a dustpan!
I swept the leaves down, down through