Take, for example,
This sunflower stuck in a vase.
Its huge dark center daily sheds a load of pollen
Onto the fake wood veneer of my desk, as if my desk
Were dirt; this room, a field; the window, a planet’s
The myth of ongoingness. We must assent, we do,
The clouds rumbling over the thawing glacier.
My brother’s beautiful empty body.
The sunflower, weeping its pollen,
Its face as blank as one of those cheap paintings of the Christ,
Head surrounded by petals of flame.
One is alive, therefore one suffers.
One is alive, therefore the bacterium
Flowering in my brother’s heart as we hiked the hill-town,
Our laughter bounding off stone walls, dusk
Building in the air its own valleys and hills. Wound-end
Stuck in water, what does the sunflower
Know of its fate? Its comrades somewhere lifting
Their heads to the light and blindly following it,
East to west. There were fields of them in Umbria, brother,
Remember? Word by word
The poem scores the blank white field, blindly following
Some instinct for music that I
Lies at the heart of it all, this morning’s dazed light, storm-
Rattled leaves. And laughter, broken
On archaic hills.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.