Story Walk: peony

Story Walk: "peony"

The Purloined Peony by Patricia Roth Schwartz

Eleven months before she died, my good friend, sister-poet, and urban priestess, walked with me in June down Allyn Street past one after another gracious home each bordered with lush-blooming beds full of iris, roses, and poppies.

“You know, my dear, this morning I had one white peony in my yard,” she said, (she lives in a studio apartment above a flower-less street where her landlord, Mr. Shiftless, rattled garbage cans and refused to snow shovel), “but something ate it.”

“There’s one,” I said, pointing to a nearby bush. “Take it.”

“ No!”


A month later, she called to tell me that the Thai food we’d eaten the day before could have been bad.

“Do you have a stomachache?”


“I can’t get rid of mine.”

And that had been the start of it--or, really, the finish. We didn’t know then there were already two tumors lurking in her liver, but I guess something in her had realized she had no time to waste. That day on Allyn Street she took a little pair of nail scissors out of her purse and chopped off in bold daylight that white peony blossom without even looking up to see if the homeowner was watching. We started to giggle, and then, even though she was 74 and I was 58, we ran all the way down the whole street to the Spin City Café, where, breathless, we ordered two large pieces of Death-By-Chocolate cake, and put the peony, which was huge, ruffled, sweet-smelling, tinged with pink at the edges of the petals, into a water glass.

“There’s a poem,” I said, pointing with my fork.

in memoriam, Patricia Janus