by | Feb 16, 2022 | Poetry

In 1994, I planted a row
of sunflowers lining the driveway
of our mobile home.
All summer, the awkward shoots
rising next to broken concrete
looked like corn. Green, tall, straight.
A different kind of lovely than flowers.
A potential, maybe. Or maybe
they were just planted
like I felt— soon-to-be married,
diploma tucked under my arm.

That summer, we tapped
into the neighbor’s cable
by crawling under their trailer, shared
Reese’s pieces with our dog, rollerbladed
until we wore tank-top tan lines.
We built funny heads with clay and baked
them on cookie sheets. We sold crafts
at a hippie shop on the hill— copper-wrapped stones,
drawings, bowls bought at Goodwill and painted
with zodiac symbols or suns and moons.
And the sunflowers grew like snakes
charmed from baskets. Slow.
Controlled. Just waiting to unfold.

A few years later, we lived in another city,
another neighborhood. We shed our tie-dye
and built a garage for the lawnmower. We dug a garden
for carrots and beans. We also planted tulips.
There was only one year the rabbits didn’t eat them.
Their red and orange cups caught so much sunshine
it ricocheted. One photo shows them beaming
in front of a yellow house, blue sky.

But one day back in 1994, late
in the summer, before the sunflowers
smiled into the world for the first time,
neighbor kids used scissors
and decapitated the entire row.
I was only 23, and I didn’t know what to name
the grief that swelled in my entire being that day.
And even today, remembering the empty tops of their bodies,
the bits of their closed blossoms left on the ground, a deep,
wordless sadness pools in my eyes
and leaves a catch in my breath.

SUNFLOWERS by Kim Groninga

Photo by Joshua Kirby, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author


Kim Groninga is an adjunct faculty member in English at the University of Northern Iowa and is the author of the chapbook Other Things that Grow (Final Thursday Press, 2010). Her poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry East, North American Review, Briar Cliff Review, Stone’s Throw Journal, Front Porch, Mid American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Visit her website at

Books by Kim Groninga