Thanks To The Sunflower

Thanks To The Sunflower

By Shawn Anto

For my aunt

I still feel there is a crown underneath every intention to blossom. & even if it doesn’t last, the bloom—the attempt was always enough.

There’s that sinking feeling of generational trauma weaving itself in the blood, roots//seeds, stuck to the bottom of my abdomen. Each & every curse finding its way to decay & if anything blooms, the worry that it will not last, nothing stays. 

Looking back, when me dad planted the seeds, we weren’t sure it if was going to grow. But, he planted them in different places anyway. Some in the backyard, some in the planter in the front yard, & weeks passed by and I saw no difference. Nothing seemed to grow. But, eventually, in the front yard it flourished next to the other plants & flowers. Dad said it might be because the soil was not good enough in the other places. & I think about our move from India to California, how badly we needed to grow, the soil wasn’t good enough. I think of the night my uncle came home & smashed his foot through our door, mad at my dad for the past. How the roots dig deep, find themselves tangled up all over our lives.

Turn back to all the times I went to church, how the seeds of faith are spread out in abundance on us. After we receive the body & blood through the Eucharist, “the word” has so much potential, but it requires good soil. But the path is constricted, back & forth on my faith. Lately, the path is filled with rocks and thorns, figuring out creative ways to purge them. I guess the first step is accepting all the harm, every piece and then purging it. That’s the only way the roots can take hold. Being consistent.

& in the summer of 2010, when the sunflower bloomed we took pictures with it. Capturing a moment infested with doubt that it would grow. & I think about my mother, finding her way from tradition. Becoming a nurse, leaving the culture only briefly to pursue what she wanted to pursue. How badly, uprooting feels on the skin. 

But the sunflower bloomed, and we admired it. Later that summer, my dad convinced my aunt to fly out to us. She lived 15,000 kilometers away, back in India. She was divorced & been dealt heavy loss. She came. She cooked for us. She saw some beauty in the sunflower, so we took a picture of her with it. I still have that picture, a reminder of a time when things weren’t so weighty with loss.

Sushma gave up on her son. She didn’t communicate with him every day. Just like his father, who left my aunt: he was a drinker, chain-smoker, and plenty in debt. 

Sushma’s son took his own life & left his wife and son without him. & it took every bones in the body not to wither, kill sacred vows for growth. 

By Christmas, that monstrance, that sunflower shriveled up & disappeared. The space it left, the way my dad never tried to plant another one again, giving up on creation. Our own seeds like baggage, heavy in a barren land with these roots deep with grief. 

In 2017, I look back & there’s still a pull to that memory of the sunflower & what it meant, what it took away when it died. What is taken away when someone dies, what we sacrifice for a chance to bloom.


Shawn Anto is 23 years old from Bakersfield, California. He’s originally from Kerala, India. He currently studies at Cal State Bakersfield looking to receive his B.A. in English & Theatre. His writing has been featured in Orpheus literary journal.

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