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  • Writer's pictureMerle Emrich

Sunflowers

The water engulfed us—black and soft

as the night, the ripples conjured up by

a faint breeze brushing against our skin

and distorting the reflection of the stars

high above. The smell of damp soil and

dying flowers hung in the air, weighed us

down, and carried us down the river while

above us the ghosts of sunflowers loomed

with weeping heads.


The sunflowers loomed tall and weeping

against the light that wilted in the sky. He

dipped his brush in the black paint and

watched it leave a smear on the palette. His

gaze was somewhere far away; lost between

the sunflower stalks far beyond the large

canvas he had placed on the grass.


We reached for the stars knowing full well

that they were unreachable, feeling the

shivers of time echo through the dark, dark

of the sky, dark of water that pulled us down,

dark mind that spread its thoughts like tentacles,

like roots. Listen!


“Listen!” he whispered and paused. He traced

the outline of the sunflowers that were growing

on the canvas with his eyesblack and dull where

the paint had already dried, glistening where it was

fresh. But there was nothing to listen to. The evening

was quiet. It smelled of burned grass and dust. There

was no wind in the trees. No birds were singing. Even

the house behind him sat silently in its place as if

abandoned. “Listen!” he whispered and his voice

was like a sound in space. The paintbrush slipped

from his hand and landed on the ground. He did not

pick it up but dipped his fingers in the paint.


The sunflowers bowed their heads softly and murmured—

“Listen!”—closer than the stars, and yet unreachable. And so,

we held onto their mirror image in the water instead, grasped

wavering stems and leaves warped in shadow.

“Listen!” we whispered, our voices weaving in and out of the

sky, getting caught in droplets of water, the currents of the

stream, digging deep into the riverbank.


His hands were blackened, paint spread up to the wrists, the

elbows. Like a sleepwalker, a mad fever raging in his eyes, he

smudged shapes and scratched patterns into the paint.

“For the stars we reach” Darkness dripped from his eyes.

“Unreachable” It rained on the canvas, pooling, reaching like

tentacles, like roots.

“All around” The paint on his skin bled into the paint on the canvas.

Our voices. Unreachable. All around” And as the day bled into

the dark, the painter bled into his painting.


We were weightless; ageless; timeless tethering between the

vastness of the sky and the ever-changing confines of water tracing

the riverbed. As above, so below, the empty shells of sunflowers

float alongside us


Written by Merle Emrich.

Cover photo by Kilian Peschel.


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