William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Empty Shells

We don’t plant our sunflowers, they plant themselves. Each year they’re different. This year almost all have multiple heads, a few with dark centers, most with light. Many have lateral growth, each branch ending with its own head or heads, some blooming all the way to the ground. And there’s one very rugged plant with only one head. The plant is about five feet tall, but now that its seeds are ripening, the head is so heavy it’s bowed halfway to the ground, and looks like a gold-and-satin liberty bell, or an abandoned woodcutter’s hut, the roof of which serves as a picnic table for squirrels. In fact, this morning a squirrel did visit one of the taller sunflowers. We saw him high up at the top of the stalk. At first we thought he was just eating seeds. But when he worked his way back down to the ground he was carrying an entire head, its neck clenched between his teeth; he hauled his prize across the street and disappeared into the neighbor’s brambles. When we looked back at the plant, we noticed several other heads were missing, though more remain, most with their seeds already gone, their empty shells scattered below. Birds have also been frequent visitors. Early one morning a few days ago, I watched from a distance of about six feet as a nuthatch went systematically after something he found tasty on the backside of one of the heads. He glanced at me now and then, but, like other nuthatches, he didn’t mind my company — not always the case with humans.

Stocks rise; the country tumbles; men lose their heads; as always, these are the days.

August 10, 2020


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Categories: Everything and Nothing, New Poems & Pieces

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