Underneath the star of David,
A hundred years behind behind my eyes,
And with my half of the ransom
I bought some sweet, sweet, sweet sweet sunflowers
And gave them to the night.
If you drive through Kansas there are fields and fields of sunflowers that turn about to face the sun. Fantastic, whispering fields of black, yellow, and green rotating with the planet, following the light.
Pressed against the window of a dirty bus, I closed my eyes and imagined I was a sunflower, too. My face turned with the light and when I closed my eyes I saw bright pink. I wonder if that's what sunflowers see as they stretch upward. The bus pulled into a small gas station on the side of the road.
Have you ever sat in a bus for two days? Your knees begin to feel like jell-o and your ankles ache for pressure. I hopped off the bus just after an older woman and two small children and looked around. Fields of them, everywhere. I inhaled fresh Kansas air and stretched my hands to the sky. Across the two-lane highway leaned an ancient produce stand. Bright reds, oranges and greens against dirty grey wood, all under that beautiful blue sky. And in a barrel just near the old register: sunflowers.
Only these didn't turn in the sun. Couldn't.
Back on the bus, five freshly cut mammoth stalks of sunflower on the seat next to me, we drove on. They smelled sweet and I put them to the glass. They didn't search the sky. Neither did I.
By dusk we were in the middle of Nebraska, stopping again for a 15 minute chunk of peace and diesel. I waited on the bus with my traveling companions, running my fingertips through the hundreds of dark flowers that made up each larger one. The yellow petals felt like lettuce and velvet. They'd begun to wilt.
Perhaps it was the endless travel, or the quiet summer evening. I gathered the stems in bunches and dashed off the bus. There on the highway's shoulder, in a part of the country where prairie was a goddess, I left my beautiful Kansas sunflowers.
As the bus pulled away, I made a silent apology to myself and the flowers. I watched them from the back of the bus long after they were swallowed up by the night.