Poetry: White Peony (I) by Sara Hovda
A portrait of the speaker centered around the image of a flower, Sara Hovda’s “White Peony” does the seamless work of communicating an entire story through meditation on an object. The reader is brought into the tensions that keep the poem turning, “like a snowball in summer.”
White Peony (I)
Like a snowball in summer. I’d linger
at the bush while dad tilled the garden
or planted tomatoes or plucked weeds
or cut the browning heads off the sunflowers
or whatever else he would do each day
at grandpa’s farm while I, not-boy
in a boy’s body, would avoid work
and dirt. Often, I’d watch Arthur or Elmo’s World
on PBS or pitch horseshoes on the sand pits
in the backyard or imagine some magic spell
that could turn me into a girl if I pretended
not to want to turn into a girl. The peonies
told me that anything could be pretty
if you looked disinterested enough.
Often I’d pluck one off the stem and hold it
while I watched TV until it began to turn
a dry yellow, cracking, and I thought
this must be what happens when you admit
to being happy being so gorgeous.
Sara Hovda is a transgender woman living in Minnesota, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as Nimrod, Nashville Review, and Tinderbox, among others.