Litany of a Sunflower

“The sunflower is mine, in a way.” – Vincent van Gogh

As God loves his followers,
so the sun loves her flowers.
You’ve never seen disciples like these –
they raise and bow their heads to her,
they sway like women in church,
they never turn their backs.

The closest I ever came to a religious experience
I was hovering like a hesitant bumblebee
in the French countryside, the day
I tried to pick one from the edge of its field

I wrestled with its stalk for minutes
before my uncle eased my hands away
and snapped it for me.

Because my fingers were gentle and incapable,
I carried my stolen gift to a grave
in Auvers-sur-Oise where I laid it six feet
above a painter’s bones

and I swear he was breathing at my neck,
nothing heavy, nothing threatening,
just grateful –

gentle and incapable
of grabbing me by the wrist
and pulling me up by the roots.

I know you, I thought.
I know that hesitancy.

The realization came like water from the dirt,
it came to me earthy, it came to me holy,
pure as an epiphany at the altar.

This is the closest to God
I’ll ever be.

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