Solar Florals

“In this four-part elegy, the sun shadows life with death; the sunflower faces light but is backed by shade; the Apollonian and leonine hero - a working-class Lycidas - is crashing from drug addiction … [to] the final section of this miniature, …. ‘let those who can memorize light / eclipse their demons,’ hit hard the heart … Giovanna Riccio is a poet of divine - I mean indomitable - gifts. Each unconventional - i.e., insolently brilliant - line summers, in ‘florid burst - August / spiking the air’.” - George Elliott Clarke, 2019. (Solar Florals have been published in Exile Quaterly, 42.3, p.98.)



That word sunflower stiffs the lithe go-getter—

sprightly beam-catcher

more limber the camber of girasoleor tournesol

troping improbable brilliance. 


A novice bloom mimes sun,

when night drops, it pivots east, 

lies low until Apollo cycles up

to recharge instinct, boost circadian spunk. 


The sunflower senses the cloud’s coverup 

limns elusive winds, never snuffs life’s spark. 


All grown up, the seasonedhelianthus  

comes to a stand still, a last stand; 

the summer sage, far-seeing,

tilts eastward for good—back 

shrouded by shade—facing

dusky fire whorling to seed. 




My rebel sunflower roused

a fey bad-boy toting loud bouquets,

yellow fields romancing canvas, tall photographs,

our shields against stygian spooks


or sleep broken by daddy’s drink-primed rage, 

no angel’s skirt rustling refuge either,

only threadbare motherlove drubbed to flight 

cracked plaster and babes tip-toeing on eggshells,  

you rapping adoleful couplet

Don’t push me’ cause I’m close to the edge

an anthem, half smile, half- epitaph   

Sometimes I wonder, how I keep from going under….


from pitching into wintry soil

where no happy-flower could root, 

layers of blushing shirts you piled on, a poor fix 

for below-zero shivers, smug classmates a-snicker, 

the teacher’s cold feet jammed in her craven mouth.  


In your godforsaken house, the fridge chilled

one crystalline bottle of Smirnoff leaving you,

as senior sibling, to lift Spam, soda crackers 

and canned soup for ravenous kids,  

to bust a lamp on your father’s putrid noggin 

lurid, over your sister—shattered, 

you gathered light shards and at 14, split

for a gamin’s dawn, a castaway crashing 

in an underlit furnace room; castoff blankets 

and solo boy crunching lifesavers in the two-dog night.


By instinct you and Henry found each other,  

twohellions, leonine, on the scrapheap 

chalking fighting words in alleyways, 

slinging booze to quell mean-cop fists, 

turning birthdays to drink, drugs and dealing, 

or three-squares in jail where you learned to do laundry

and to bleach the night with smack that left bruises 

trailing up your arm and wasted you 

to a hungry slip needling ghosts. 


Then Henry stone-cold on the bed 

from too much memory and dirty junk, 

you, at the window afraid to shoot up, 

reaching through panes, petrified veins 

and dead wood, eyeballing sun detoxing fog. 


Helios Crashing  


So, nothing left but to doff      

the lab coat’s bluff, cut surgical babble  

snaking through drip tubes, (nothing here we can’t reverse)


The crescent moon stabs my breast

grief’s bone-sliver blow; wheels hurling 

to no-exit—huis clos,

no emergency exit--

driving a one-way good bye 

down an asphalt mourning ribbon—nothing

but death is irreparable.  


If only the corridor were a two-way street, 

but there’s no way back, no call to dodge 

darkness; with the hospital room off life-support, 

dawn streams in, purling light


--your body gone lucid,

no more air hunger or thirst for cause,

only you spiriting sun,a halcyon amen

conjuring our beloved willow tree 

and you forever handsome, 

bookish on the beat-up bench

bathed in April rays;


And I your lover;


your name rising, mint on my lips

and warm, in my empty hand, our first dance, 

when we broke ground 

straining for sky. 


Alone, I draped you in emerald silk, planted   

one lone sunflower breaking over your heart. 



Helianthus Kiss 


Five years clean you blew in, an end, 

a beginning glossing New Year’s Eve 

jivers, DJs, you and me itching for alchemy

looking to blaze blues into gold.  


Me older, you doing the mature student thing,

we gamboled an incendiary twosome—swayed 

and sashayed, dazing bad-luck and bad lovers;

hot on midnight’s heels, we twirled a volte face

two-stepped to dawn, to sleep afresh, rise anew. 


All winter, I fed you tomato-laced penne, 

sharp parmigiano, pears, sparkling water,

stoked logs on the fire, rearranged bygones 

to a high-ceiling refuge for Shangri-la.    


But let those who can memorize light,

eclipse their demons; yours lay low like hitmen 

chafing beneath skin and though you rallied 

after each smashing hit, veered into dog-eared books,

or twisted Buddha-like in lotus, each relapse 

scored a black sheep fading to a done deal, 

dead kidneys, dialysis, blood circling--


I fire up the computer’s sleeping screen

--sunflower halo over your name;

railing against February’s feeble sky,

I trek Bloor Street florist shops,

unearth a crush of sun-fisted helianthus

and stud the living room with love’s 

petulant corona—each insolent torch, 

each florid burst—August

spiking the air.