Consider the Sunflowers – Elma Schemenauer

A Melody in Minor Keys
Yes, Consider the Sunflowers is like a melody in minor keys. It is a melody that rises above the quietness of the prairie about the souls and simple lives of the ordinary people in and ordinary landscape with destinies that are all but ordinary. The story of Consider the Sunflower had grown thin and tall lake a white birch.
I like to see and talk about a written story like about a living entity with all the attributes that life comes with. What’s happening to it after the author leaves it with the reader must look like a life cycle in the context of a forest that is about to grow after the reader sets it aside and continue minding his daily business or go to the desk and grow his own trees and so on. A story, every good story in itself must leave behind it a legacy of thought and emotion that will ultimately bare fruits. According to these criteria, Consider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer passes the test and I solemnly declare it alive!
I read it enthusiastically, I read it quickly. This is not to say that I viewed it as pure entertainment but rather like a mind and heart capturing story. Of course, as a writer and poet I would probably structure it differently but, again, that’s the beauty of a well written novel: it multiplies in the mind and heart of the reader. I would envision my story rather like a rich leafy and shadowy linden tree with flowers coming to blossom in June, with multitudes of birds singing and bees collecting the nectar and the sadness of leafs coming down in the fall. But that would be my story, a story of a guy familiar not with the prairie but rather with a mountainous landscape with springs and creeks, with green meadows and the charm of nightingales.
Most of the reviews that I read on Consider the Sunflowers gravitate around love, marriage and the challenges of life. And, yes, there is plenty of meat to satisfy the interest of many who prefer this kind of ingredients of a story. I like them too but with so many novels written around these themes many of the stories become more like variations of the same. What sets this story apart? Let’s see!
The plot has a straight line shape that grows in colour and intensity. The author proves that the plot is not all that there is but rather it gives debt and nuances to the characters and to the larger context of the community. Not necessarily what characters say in the dialogs is what defines them but rather how they respond to the basic challenges of life. Sometimes through the process of reading I felt like being immersed a beautiful breeze of sound, a melody in minor tunes. The drama is more like something we all go through in our everyday life but Elma’s characters’ response is unique. A rather acrimonious co-existence of Roland and Frank within the same community evolves in a rare fruit of mutual acceptance. Frank and Victor outgrow their mutual disregard for each other, Frank, the half gipsy and, half Christian young man is ultimately accepted in a community with strong prejudices and strict moral dogmas.
Tina is a center pillar of the whole structure. She is a victim of loneliness in a place that was, according to her dreams, meant to be a paradise. She is a living example of what destructive power loneliness can unleash on a human soul. There, in the realm of loneliness, the time seems to be painfully slow and the mind excruciatingly hasty in building an almost alternate reality so much so that even the absolutes are being questioned and moral boundaries blur up to become a heavy fog of uncertainty.
The author leaves plenty open doors or just slightly cracked throughout the story. I can foresee a whole series of follow up novels like: “Consider the Laughter” with Dorrie and Roland devouring life with an astronomical hunger, “Consider Coming Home” with Frank’s surrender to the Almighty and his ultimate new birth, “Consider the Colours” with Tina surrendering to the beauty of the prairie and her artistic inclinations past on Klara or Morgan, etc.
There is also a door just slightly ajar towards the beauty of concurring fears and prejudices, towards growing trough the spirit of wisdom and revelation, towards finally seeing the big picture that God kept displaying before our eyes for ages. Maybe there is also a door towards a novel addressing a conflict between the old and the young…
Elma Schemenauer proves to be a resourceful story teller and Consider the Sunflower is just one piece of a puzzle that she is called to put together.

About The Stones

There must something, something

Mysterious at least about the stones,

A frozen velocity, a flight somehow

Fallen from between the wings…

 

They have a story behind them,

They’re just a bit heavier than the dry bones…

They aren’t just crushing

Those ocean waves in vain!

Somehow you feel there’s a language smoldering,

Petrified moments, forgotten pain.

 

If you are hungry enough you can speak them into bread,

They could be much more than you can think about,

You can count them twelve by twelve

And build an altar,

Or just do nothing so they can cry out…

Before The Firing Squad

Let’s run away, my darling, let’s run our days away,

This life’s a crucifixion, this planet is a cross,

Don’t speak a word this morning, don’t ever dare to say

“We’re gonna die!” don’t speak us unto loss…

Forget about the winters, forget those rocky hills,

Let’s run for hope, my darling, for our only hope,

Forget the empty freezer, forget those nasty bills,

We’ll never reach the ugly end of the rope!

There is a heaven, darling, our God is still the same,

Don’t ever mind the winters, don’t worry, don’t be sad!

But if the doors don’t open we’ll still enjoy the game

And hold our hands, my darling, before the firing squad…

Somehow About The Poem

The price of rain decreases

At the free market of poetries

Even if

The sky sends a look

Through each drop…

Even if

My leaves of paper got green

While you, poets,

Were fishing

Radioactive trout…

Look,

Even the incorruptible time loses

Some moments

From place to place.  Just

Pick them up and give them a breath

Before they become stones

(anyone knows how unuseful

the moments of stone are).

In the rest

The poem is like a silence,

Like a place from where

Someone just left…

This really matters…

Who can pasture

The flock of my words,

Those trend setters, some will say,

Who kill the grass

To smell the hay…

There’s no place for you,

O, shepherds of my words,

Trough this squeaky forest of wooden swords…

This green pasture of bar coded grass blades

Is not for you, nor are those virtual shades.

You show some allergies

To that optimized blue of the sky

Not to low, not too high…

Leave those stereo nightingales

And this computerized dark,

I want my words together

In the poem of this ark…

Don’t rest by those

Y2K compliant still waters,

Allow some death

In your breath!

This really matters…

Hmm…

It takes two

For a deep silence,

 

It takes a crowd

For a painful loneliness…

Oneness

You are the letter A, I am the digit one,

The two of us to hold the oneness alive…

The hardest way of cleaving in us is being done.

We started both with walking but ended in a dive…

We started up the journey, a rock and iron ball,

Two question marks in labor to be an exclamation!

We paid in love together the ageing heavy toll,

We sang along the ancient songs of adoration.

While being barked quite often by bulldogs of this age

No one will know how often we barked in full reply…

O, what a madding chaos surrounds us, what a rage!

Our quiet moments are shorter than a sigh…

But in the Lord, together, we’ll make it day by day,

With me the digit one and you the letter A!…

Behold…

Behold, a lilac blossoms just a heart beat away

From all your preplanned holydays and feasts…

Open your eyes, my darling, it might be your day,

Listen to the dew in the morning, don’t grumble at least.

Behold, the sunshine knocks in the window glass

Echoing trough your half open eyes some story telling beams

From a long forgotten realm of a cheerful grass

And waters that flow in heavenly streams.

Behold, have some blue soil and my metaphor’s seed,

My poem is a new landscape for your rugged earth.

Let us say good bye to the empty words and greed,

Listen, there is a new galaxy crying for birth!

Tame the words, darling, keep them together and still

Don’t let them fly around at Parliament Hill!

Let’s Run…

Let’s run away, my darling, let’s run our days away,

This life’s a crucifixion, this planet is a cross,

Don’t speak a word this morning, don’t ever dare to say

“We’re gonna die!” don’t speak us unto loss…

Forget about the winters, forget those rocky hills,

Let’s run for hope, my darling, for our only hope,

Forget the empty freezer, forget those nasty bills,

We’ll never reach the ugly end of the rope!

There is a heaven, darling, our God is still the same,

Don’t ever mind the winters, don’t worry, don’t be sad!

But if the doors don’t open we’ll still enjoy the game

And hold our hands, my darling, before the firing squad…