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Sunflower Sutra

It’s no secret that Allen Ginsberg is my spirit poet. (Yes, I’m making up that phrase.) I first came across his poetry as a teenager and quickly fell in love with the Beat Generation.

In high school, I used to carry a picture of Allen Ginsberg around with me, until my dog ate it. I spent hours trying to memorize all of Howl and later got more than one tattoo commemorating my love for this poem, and others, written by my favorite New Jerseyan.

My favorite poem has always been The Sunflower Sutra, which has grown in meaning for me over the past 10+ years. As a little girl, I was absolutely obsessed with sunflowers – their power, their beauty, their eerie human-ness as they perpetually moved towards the sun.

I started a secret club with a friend, The Sunflower Girls Club. As a seven year old, this mostly meant that we hung up a sign on our playhouse and told the neighborhood boys they couldn’t come inside. In middle school, I decorated my bedroom in sunflowers, and later, in high school, the same went for my car. Nowadays, my obsession is commemorated in an ongoing tattoo and lots of photographs of these living plants.

June and July have been intense months, full of change and transformation. The entire time, sunflowers have been appearing absolutely everywhere. I was telling my friend about how I kept seeing sunflowers and it felt like this crazy sign when we walked past another storefront using sunflowers in its display. “You’re blossoming,” she said, always sweet, always insightful. I smiled as I made my way home after we separated on the subway, and then saw even more sunflowers, in windows, and shops, and in tote bags of all these people around me.

Whatever it may mean, I find I keep coming back to my favorite poem, and my favorite excerpt:

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,
—We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

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