12 Ways of Looking at a Sunflower

by Brianna Pike

“I’m categorically keeping those sunflowers of mine,” Vincent Van Gogh 

I paint you loose, severed from long 
stalks displayed flat, looking out instead of up. 

I paint you cowering one behind the other, knowing 
you will never know the sun again; 

I paint you open, dark seeded then picked 
clean by crows cawing over broken wheat fields. 

I paint you as sheared mane. 
I paint you as broken tail. 

But you are not meant to lay flat, wilting 
over wood, so I paint you among cabbage 

roses, carnations, a tangle 
of wildflowers, but your brown eyes 

dull, so I paint you as sea anemones, swaying
ink blue; stars in my beloved night 

sky, heavy petals weeping the table white. 
I paint you in yellow so bright it feels 

as if I have stolen the sun from you, 
like a god, and smeared it across my canvas. 

I paint you again, and again, and again, and again. 

Each petal, each rough stalk, each soft leaf, 
each dark seed roots in my heart, 

so when you are stolen from me, packed up quickly 
under the arm of a man I once thought my friend,

a man who fled in the middle of the night, his sweat
wetting the canvases under his arms, I know I need 

only to return to the fields to find you
fresh and shining and stretching toward our sun.

About the Author

Brianna Pike is a Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College. Her poems and essays have appeared in Parentheses, Fish Barrel Review, Writer’s Resist, Juxtaprose, Thimble & The Account. She currently serves as an Editorial Assistant for the Indianapolis Review​ and lives in Indy with her husband & son. She blogs at https://briannajaepike.wordpress.com/. Find her on Instagram @Bri33081.