Monday, November 15, 2010

The Painter


It began to snow at midnight. And certainly
the kitchen is the best place to sit,
even the kitchen of the sleepless.
It's warm there, you cook yourself something, drink wine
and look out of the window at your friend eternity.
Why care whether birth and death are merely points
when life is not a straight line.
Why torment yourself eyeing the calendar
and wondering what is at stake.
Why confess you don't have the money
to buy Saskia shoes?
And why brag
that you suffer more than others.
If there were no silence here
the snow would have dreamed it up.
You are alone.
Spare the gestures. Nothing for show.

- Vladimir Holub
translated by Ian & Jarmila Milner

"You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it, rake leaves, wash the dog, and drive cars in it. We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world." - Diane Ackerman

This poem is of course about Vincent. I have always felt an affinity. I am crazy enough in my own ways. I am fortunate that my madness has not haunted me like it did him. I can understand the sacrifice of the ear. I can understand how the world is so alien. These have been daily encounters for me. I began a journey to peace quite some time ago and I have largely succeeded but not entirely. My temper laspses and insanity returns. That is just how it is. I have things to face and just live with. My hope is to live transparently, and so I cannot keep secret behaviors of any consequence.

Vincent Van Gogh. I read a novel written by Sheramy Bundrick called Sunflowers, the story of Vincent told by his lover, a prostitute named Rachel. The story covered his time in Arles, where he painted intensely.

The Painter

To ache and burn so
that I would rip my own ear,
that I would turn night
into day on some
other planet with pinwheel
stars filling the sky.

Then to know this home
is askew, that you run from
it, from me. I howl.

August 29, 2009 8:36 PM


  1. Someone recommended this book to me long ago, and I had forgotten about it. Do we all love Van Gogh for his talent or his tortures? Or maybe both?

  2. I thought at the end of it that more could have been done but perhaps not by Ms Bundrick. I couldn't decide whether I had a legitimate criticism or rather that it was a matter of taste, a fine work, just not to my taste. I am quite sure that I am not a good critic, not enough in the mainstream of the reading public. I am idiosyncratic and a man not to everyones liking. My life has made that abundantly clear.

  3. Vladimir's wise. Spare the gestures. When we are alone there should be no pretense, nothing to cover the eyes. Transparent with oneself can be a caustic mirror, but just another point on the wavy line along which life trips, sputters, and surges.

    Your poem made my hands curl with tension. I saw memories of myself, head thrown back with my fists as rock, as hammer to my own desire. "WHY WHY WHY" the howl.

  4. Annie, I use that term, transparent in that way, and I go further. I connect it to the pith of saying, "I am as sick as my secrets," an indictment and measure of risk for alcoholics like me. We are more or less forced into transparent living in order to assure sobriety. Because what we successfully master may save another's life, we are encouraged to become comfortable enough to share quite specifically who we are, what we have done and been and what we did to succeed at this sobriety thing.

    It occurred to me along the way that this relaxed position is not only a tool for sharing but a life style that minimizes all the burdens of living on the planet.

  5. I like the poem. I admire the passion, and the willingness to go beyond… I admire it more I think, because I’ve not yet stepped over into that special world.

  6. The risk is great, the price is high, the reward may not come. It is no wonder to me that most stop short. And yet, most who do go there also assert that they don't have a real choice about it. That has been my experience each time something like the big Van Gogh thing has happened to me. My things don't last a lifetime though. Back a year ago I was easily managing better than two poems a day. The flow was there and it was simple and there was no way I could really stop it. I was fortunate that I was in love with what was happening to me.

    Because that is what it is of course, something that happens, not something I decide to do.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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