Peonies: A Poem by Mary Oliver

The other day, a visiting yoga instructor began and ended class with this poem. The focus of the month at the studio is the heart chakra, which the pink peony can open, bringing awareness to the importance of those around us. She didn’t mention that, but I wonder if she knows it from her chakra reading or possibly intuitively. Peonies is a powerful poem and I want to share it with you all. If you have a favorite peony fragrance, please comment below. I don’t have one, and would love to discover a fragrance that captures this dynamic flower.




This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises, 
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace, 
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls, 
craving the sweet sap, 
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind, 
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies, 
and tip their fragrance to the air, 
and rise, 
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness 
gladly and lightly, 
and there it is again — 
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open. 
Do you love this world? 
Do you cherish your humble and silky life? 
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden, 
and softly, 
and exclaiming of their dearness, 
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, 
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?


from New And Selected Poems by Mary Oliver 

(c) Mary Oliver

Peony No. 5780 by kariherer on

Posted by ~Trish


19 thoughts on “Peonies: A Poem by Mary Oliver

    1. It was so nice that she started and ended with the same poem, giving us a chance to really take it in. It was restful and powerful as you say.

      Thanks for sharing the link, those are lovely photos of peonies as well!


  1. Peonies are one of my all-time favorite flowers! And OH so expensive! I wanted them in my wedding but THAT sure didn’t happen!

    The poem was so tranquil and perfect (in my mind) for a yoga class. I’ve never been to one but have always pictured myself doing it. Too bad my quaint little town doesn’t offer anything like this. Anyway, I enjoy great poetry and can appreciate them for their beauty, as I, too, write poetry. This one was well written.

  2. Hi, Trish!

    What a lovely poem! Hurrah! A beautiful piece, will definitely have to check out her work. Mary Oliver! I love Peonies too, they are like little dancing flirtatious ponies! Any luck finding a peony scent?

    Can’t wait for your visit to LA and our So-Cal scent hives!


  3. Some very nice peony fragrances are “Cloud Nine” which can be found on, and Stella by Stella McCartney. I also love J’Adore by Dior, although I’m not sure it’s mainly a peony fragrance. This is one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read. Every time I read it, I stop breathing for a few moments…it reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem about poetry…making her so cold no fire could warm her…There are few poems that are just heart-stopping…this is one of them for me…How wonderful of you to share it with everyone. Best wishes finding your favorite fragrance. ~ Beth

    1. I apologize for the delay in responding, I’m not sure how this comment escaped me for so long!

      You are so very welcome, and thank *you* for commenting. This is such a special poem to me and I am so glad it touched you as well. XOXO ~Trish

  4. My sister died 2 years ago today of appendix cancer. Peonies were her favorite flower. It was good to find this poem on here today and reminds me of how Glenda always lived her life as an adventure. She died young and beautiful, too fast like the peonies.

    1. I’m so glad you were able to find this poem here. I always find such solace and inspiration in Mary Oliver’s work. Love and strength to you.

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