A project for the summer, you said,
shaking the yellow curls on your head and,
opening up your sweaty hand,
offered me hard seeds with zebra bands.
The teacher had given you a little sack
and, like Jack’s mother, I was full of doubt,
prepared to throw them out.
Where would we grow sunflowers in a flat?
You had instructions on how it should be done.
I bought five flowerpots, filled them one by one
with soil and placed them by the window in the sun.
You used a pencil to make holes, pressing the seeds
firmly into crumbly black loam,
which you watered daily,
my patient daughter,
anticipating signs of growth, something to measure:
a magic beanstalk with a hoard of treasure.
I recall so well that beaming smile
the day you found shoots in one of the pots
and lavished all your care
on the greenery that unfurled there,
at first, a weak and hairy stem
that suddenly burst with leaves –
and how you loved them.
They were so small and yet so strong,
it wasn’t long before young
flower heads began to track the sun,
throwing shadow dials around the room,
until, one day, they had all bloomed.
In September, when you returned to school,
the yellow-rayed faces became heavy-headed,
their petals soon turned brown,
scattered their seeds,
wilted, withered and dropped down.
Kim M. Russell, 2017
I reworked this poem from an unsuccessful submission to a recent competition.