close up photo of sunflower
One year ago
I pressed sunflower seeds 
Gently into soil
Watered them and waited
They were small sprouts
Through the spring
As the world shut down
And live upended
They had just made it 
Over the fence 
When the streets
Burst into flames and
Riot fully blooming
By the time the statues came down

I gathered their seeds
Before this winter with no mercy

I burned them tonight
Their stalks and a few broken
Fence boards
Sent smoke singable
Into the clear spring air
The red breath swam
Through their ashes
Before this year
I  had never thought 
What is means 
To just Breathe

My clothes and hair smell of smoke
The burnt remains of what dared
To shoot green and gold
Exclamations of joy
Into this year
A fitting offering
When I go to bring 
This year’s seedlings in 
Against the cold night air
I reach into the ashes
Scatter a handful to the wind
Marking this moment 
With mourning and gratitude 

So much loss 
It staggers me
So I thank the sunflowers
Who saw me through it all
Seed to ash
Flower to flame
Soil to sky

Poem by Rachel Loughlin

Rachel Loughlin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University where she won the Undergraduate Poetry Award. She is a graphic designer, eternally optimistic gardener, runner, muralist, and writer living in Richmond, Virginia. Rachel explores the intersections of nature, sensuality, darkness and light, and deconstructed spirituality through her poetry.