Sunflower facination is not just the territory of arts and craftspeople (who seem to have painted, appliqued, needlepointed and decoupaged them onto everything from sweatshirts to pencil holders in recent years). Many artists and writers have looked to this flower for inspiration. On these pages you will find some of my favorite interpretations of the sunflower theme, and there isn't a hooked rug among them.
The author, a Holocaust survivor, is describing an incident on his way to a work site outside of the camp:
Our column suddenly came to a halt at the crossroads.
I could see nothing that might be holding us up but I noticed on the left of the street there was a military
cemetary. It was enclosed by a low barbed wire fence. The wires were threaded through sparse bushes
and low shrubs, but between them you could see the graves aligned in stiff rows.
And on each grave there was planted a sunflower, as straight as a soldier on parade.
I stared spellbound. The flower heads seemed to absorb the sun's rays like mirrors and draw them down
into the darkness of the ground as my gaze wandered from the sunflower to the grave. It seemed to
penetrate the earth and suddenly I saw a periscope. It was gaily coloured and butterflies fluttered from
flower to flower. Were they carrying messages from grave to grave? Were they whispering something to
each flower to pass on to the soldier below? Yes, this is just what they were doing; the dead were
receiving light and messages.
Suddenly I envied the dead soldiers. Each had a sunflower to connect him with the living world, and
butterflies to visit his grave. For me there would be no sunflower. I would be buried in a mass-grave,
where corpses would be piled on top of me. No sunflower would ever bring light into my darkness, and
no butterflies would dance upon my dreadful tomb.
I do not know how long we stood there. The man behind gave me a push and the procession started
again. As we walked on I still had my head turned towards the sunflowers. They were countless and
indistinguishable from one another. But the men who were buried under them had not severed all
connection with the world. Even in death they were superior to us. . .
~ Simon Wiesenthal, from his book The Sunflower
A Letter from Li Po
Exiled are we. Were exiles born. The "far away,"
language of desert, language of ocean, language of sky,
as of the unfathomable words that lie
between the apple and the eye,
these are the only words we learn to say.
Each morning we devour the unknown. Each day
we find, and take, and spill, or spend, or lose,
a sunflower spendor of which none knows the source.
The Price You Pay for Sunflowers
you come out of that place again i gaze into your face again i try to read your eyes again today you walked right in and sat awhile stroked the striped cat awhile just as tho you'd never been away and when i asked how you'd been you looked up from the cat and then you sang a song so tender and so strange closed youreyes and let it come and when you finally got it sung you answered oh -- I'm just about the same sunflowers time and time again i need to spend an hour with my sunflower friend sunflowers light the way put a touch of color in the long dark day i offered you a cup of tea the way that you looked up at me i knew you hadn't heard a word i said your mind so full of crows in flight and pinwheel spinning starry nights and no time in the dream to rest your head but time is for the ticking clock and you're between the tick and tock bleeding from the passion in your brain so put another bandage on and sing us all another song and fill us with the beauty and the pain of sunflowers time and time again i need to spend an hour with my sunflower friend sunflowers light the way put a touch of color in the long dark day the afternoon is dying fast your songs are bits of flying glass the colored edges cut into my eyes and looking through the salty mist i saw that you knew how to risk and father said -- all else is a lie and when you couldn't take no more you went out through an open door looking for your blinding field of hay you left us rich but feeling sad cause you were sane and we were mad but i guess that's the price you pay for sunflowers ~ Ric Masten, Dragonflies, Codfish & Frogs There is music which goes to this poem. It is published in this volume of poetry.