by Catherine Coundjeris
A Gift of Sunflowers I always loved sunflowers. The way their heads nod in the darkness and rise again towards the sun, following the golden light through the day. They are the strongest flower and stand like warrior angels in their fields of glory. When I was six my father promised to pick me a sunflower after church one Sunday morning. I could think of nothing else through all the chants as sunlight poured through stained glass windows. Dad struggled to cut the resilient stalk. I waited and waited to hold my gift. Their seeds of variegated color small and nutty are easy to chew and it is satisfying to break open their shells. A handful in the pocket a good companion for a long walk on a summer’s day. The birds love them too. Birds and squirrels fighting for their share at the feeder under the oak trees in the woods behind our rancher. Little did I dream that they were an emblem of freedom against the rage of Putin and his unholy puissance. Even some Russian soldiers don’t want to fight. No one really knows why as we advance in arts and science, we again become bogged down by the brutality of war. When will we rise up free and whole to follow the sun? Haunted Troubled by faces on the news. A mother with three children. Her hair shorn close to her head. Asking for a no-fly zone. Her daughter angry and tortured Grimacing at the camera. A president pleading for NATO To join them to defend them Against a madman. Send more missiles; We need more fighter jets. Defend democracy before it’s too late. Women and children And old people climbing fallen trees To escape the bombing. Leaving their homes and Everything behind them. Dogs and cats and pets in tow. A child with a pink backpack Her prized possession on the road Leaving on foot. Soldiers with sunflowers Tucked In their hair The sick and newborn in bunkers. Hairdressers, barbers, dentists, butchers, taking up the gold and blue colors, learning to use semi-automatic rifles, refusing to surrender; ready to fight to the end. All seared into my mind’s eye While World War III lurks behind the smoke and fire. The Years of Peace Peter Ostroushko’s "Heart of the Heartland" Mandolin solo brought me to tears this morning because it sounded just like my dad’s mandolin. The tears came and then I remembered A feeling I had not felt in a long time. Out of the blue I was young again. The sweet voice of the mandolin, soothing away the Covid years and violent world and recalling the years of peace. Catherine’s poetry is published in literary magazines, including, Paper Dragons, Kaleidoscope, Jalmurra, Calla Press, Cholla Needles, Last Leaves, Bewildering Stories, The Raven Review, Open Door Magazine, Stone Hill Journal, Honeyguide, Loud Coffee Press, and Moss Puppy Magazine. She also has stories published in Proem, Quail Bell, and KeepThings on instagram. She has recently published an essay in an anthology from Luna Press called Not the Fellowship Dragon’s Welcome. Catherine is very passionate about adult literacy.