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?


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.