I am not sure how I feel about sunflowers. Normally, I am against them. When I see sunflowers as cut flowers in restaurants and bars, I want to puke. They are such obvious flowers, so common. You can find them in any supermarket. They are too popular for their beauty. They are easy to grow and once cut they last for a long time. I grew an enormous one as a child. There is a picture of me standing under an enormous bloom that is bigger than my head. Their enormity is probably part of their popularity. They are freaks of the flower world. People probably pant around enormous sunflowers. People probably become drippily romantic around them. It’s popular to ooh and ahh over their symmetries. The radial pattern of their centers has been forcibly aligned with progressive political parties and multi-national oil companies. There is a battle over what they mean. They hold so much sway over our imaginations, far too much if you ask me. And yet I planted an abundance of them this year. I cut them and give them to Caroline. She likes them, and I like giving them to her. They look good in her apartment, much better than the terribly uniform sunflowers for sale at Stop n Shop.
But I did not plant them for cut flowers. I planted them because I thought they would attract gold finches to my garden, as I've seen them do in Ed's garden for years. One gold finch did come to my garden about a week ago, but it did not stop to eat sunflower seeds. It perched for a moment on another, sunflower-like flower in my garden. Then it flew away, just like me. I probably finished up whatever hurried business I was doing at home and straightaway drove across town to Caroline’s house, quite possibly with a bouquet of flowers and some cut herbs. If one hundred gold finches were to come to feed on my sunflower seeds, I would probably not be around to see them, so frequently am I gone. But I don’t mind how gone I’ve been. When we trade one pleasure for another, how can we complain? It’s like the Frank O’Hara poem that says, “the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won/and in a sense we’re all winning/we’re alive.” Sometimes I say that I would rather not be alive, but I understand what the poet means. Being alive is a kind of victory over death. Have you heard? Death can overtake you at any moment. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, or, as it were, a bunch of sunflowers.
I am home now and waiting on a friend. I am on my porch. After a day of rain and heavy clouds, the sun has finally come out. My sunflowers are between me and the street, possibly atrocious symbols of something possibly profound, possibly only vegetable matter screens. My upstairs neighbor is on the driveway, pacing, smoking, reading a book. The air smells like vanilla. A moped just went by, putt putt puttering, dumbly like a fart. It’s a completely ordinary August afternoon by all accounts. Oilchanges will be over in two weeks.