Gift poem by Blaine Marchand


A.P. Saunders pauses before he begins hybridization, Clinton, NY, 1917

Sable brush in hand,
amid cupped peonies drenched
in sunlight, iridescent as fine china,
the memory of my father
blooms. So devoted
to this flower he had three beds,
each with three neat rows,
curved into the expanse of lawn at the Farm. This shimmer of him in his prime
is sweet, infused, tinged
with fragrance -
honey and rose, musk and lemon. Industrious bees, diligent,
as he always was, hover,
their wingbeat vibrations shaking down
the gold dust frit of pollen.
He taught me so much –
careful observation to ensure best choice, dexterity to transfer the gilt grains
from plant to plant, stamen to stigma, patience as nature does its work
and the need to jot note after note.
The peony is mythic with romance, promises a happy marriage and honor,
and he was blessed with that
as am I. But born with a painter’s eye
and a scientific disposition, I imagine more – the gift of grander beauty, earlier flowering, as yet unseen dazzling colours,
assured that with assist from a skilled hand the plants of earth will respond
and reward us with radiance,
offer moments of calm and solace
amid the uncertainty, the griefs life brings.