Poetry: Mexican Sunflowers

Grace E. Gray (1981) is a professional writer and editor, with publications that include scholarly articles on developmental neuroscience, feature writing, medical writing, nature writing, and interviews. She has been writing poetry as long as she can remember. Her only published poem, included here, is “Mexican Sunflowers,” which was published in Poet Lore, 2005.

Mexican Sunflowers
My daughter plays in my mother’s shadow,
Hiding in the unpredictable shade.
She stirs up the murky water,
Groping after goldfish and water-lily roots.

Flanking the fountain
Huge planters filled with exotic and half-wilted plants
Run the length of the museum courtyard.
My sister and I wander around them, avoiding my mother,
Faking interest in the limp Tithonia and elephants’ ears.
Oppressed by the sun,
Too much tourism, and each other.

My mother—Obstinate sunflower–
Disgusted with us and the whole inadequate planet
Turns her arrogant face
Directly into the light.
Looking back I have to wonder how my daughter
Who wasn’t even born at the time
Managed to get loose in that tired courtyard.
In my mind she flings up her wet hands–
The drops shoot from her fingers
Flying beyond my mother’s shadow to flare briefly in the sunlight.

Pat’s Last Stand
Patricia’s face reveals her age,
Hands too, and skin — louche lingerie–
Betrays the slackened veins’ debauch
The tendons’ shiftless faux esprit.
These haggard concubines of death
Falsely spell her prompt decease–
Pat thrives solely to negate
The doctors, aides, and her disease.

Greek amphora, National Archaeological Museum ...

Greek Amphora

Once more the illness drags her down
Once more she struggles to claw free
“For whomever else that damn bell tolls
It better not dare toll for me!”

Shall I, the daughter of such will, in turn infringe on death’s decree?
Unlikely. I am too earthbound to spurn the earth that welcomes me.


Anaphora, Amphora, Anathema: An Epistrophe
Keats wrote about painted youths fixed forever on an amphora
Or vase or urn, I suppose it is anathema
To misuse the term! But say an amphora,
Keats co-opted “urn,” and it would be anathema
To speak out of turn, suggesting my writing about an amphora
Approached his of an urn.  I do not aspire to Keats’ amphora;
Besides, he died too young, now immortal like the youths on the amphora.
I’ve outstripped him there! I risk drawing down an anathema
Upon my head, starting poetry so late. It is, I’ll admit, to avoid the curse, anathema
To buck the wisdom: Great poetry’s a youthful game. Besides, an amphora,
Is a different sort of urn, pointed at its end. My amphora,
Unlike Keats’ urn, cannot stand alone; it needs support. I would utter an anathema
If it broke.  So, here’s the iron stand it stands in: No youth frozen on my amphora!
From years of wear—the paint and pot are chipped– the wisdom to avoid anathemas.

My last poem was an anaphora; this epistrophe, though anathema, is about an amphora.

Copyright Grace E. Gray.  You may not copy or publish these poems without the express consent of the author.

5 thoughts on “Poetry: Mexican Sunflowers

  1. Thank you for your kind and supportive comments! They are motivating me to send out some more poems for publication.

  2. I particularly enjoyed Mexican Sunflowers. The Mother’s face, an obstinate sunflower turned toward the sun.–brilliant imagery throughout. Vivid and ephemeral all at once.

    I can hear Pat’s defiant voice in the second poem. I love that unlike her, you are too earthbound to spurn earths eventual welcome.

    Beautiful work. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The first poem, even without the line breaks and formatting, is breathtaking. It’s particular and gestural, and when you reveal that the daughter wasn’t even born yet, and then in the very next line have her throw up her hands – this is wonderful, wonderful. Congratulations, Grace. I hope to see more of your work.

    • I agree with all Betsy says. The poem has powerful surprises throughout that delight the reader. Thank you for this poem.

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