Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
…A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence!
a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!
How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens
of the railroad and your flower soul?
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin
and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive?
the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!
So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,
—We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives,
we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed…
This poem reminds us we’re all sunflowers but we get confused sometimes. I look at the mirror, I see gray hair and wrinkles, I can feel the effort of my life. That’s my history, but it’s not my identity. We have dings and dents and dirt, yet underneath all of it is fundamental goodness. This understanding is a basic Buddhist teaching. We have layers of confusion and illusion and grasping.
Sometimes those clouds part and we feel that goodness inside us; a place of integration and settling and wholeness and presence. I think that’s what Ginsberg is pointing out to us. This poem tells us we can appreciate this body, this precious life, as it is. It invites us to let go of wishing things were different. Almost every time I do Savasana, I remember this place, this refuge.
—Cyndi Lee, the founder of New York City’s Om Yoga Center (1998) and the first female Western yoga teacher and author to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism
From Spring 2022