MY FIRST VAN GOGH

“It is sometimes so bitterly cold in the winter that one says, `The cold is too awful for me to care whether summer is coming or not; the harm outdoes the good.’ But with or without our approval, the severe weather does come to an end eventually and one fine morning the wind changes and there is the thaw. When I compare the state of the weather to our state of mind and our circumstances, subject to change and fluctuation like the weather, then I still have some hope that things may get better.” – Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo (1879)



My first Van Gogh,
                    a crumb toured o the provinces from the table
of Solomon R. Guggenheim
                              Landscape with Snow,           Paysage enneigé
                                        1888,          two years before
his death.          A man walking his dog in the distance
                    the pain applied like stab wounds and the raw
canvas peering through as the dirty slush
                                        grey like yesterday’s newspaper.

Not as alive as the whirling stars
                    and dancing cypresses of Arles,          but you see
through that tiny window          38.2 x 46.2 cm
                                   what he saw
               long before neuroscience realised that the brain
draws no distinction between
                         physical and emotional pain
          that the world hangs together with sutures of colour
and the colour cries out in agony
                                        if you have eyes to hear.
That’s not madness
(he couldn’t work when he was bad):
               that’s absolute crystalline sanity.
                                                      It tells us that snow         is cold
          but human hearts burn.


                      

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