In the winter of '89, Vincent paints
from black and white photos of Millet's series--
peasants farming. He writes brother Theo he is
...not so much copying as translating them.
Finger working impasto like the yarns
he braids nights, twisting complimentary
shades together for the effects.
Mornings he calls out like some exotic bird,
“Blu! Orange!” while banging harmonies
on the pianola until his music teacher refuses
lessons to the man who hears colours.
Van Gogh keys Millet's sepias to bright hues.
Bends the woman in blue, her neck, breasts
pointing toward earth as she gathers grain.
When the pot-bellied stove goes cold,
he imagines himself warm in fields
with workers--the core of his art.
Dabs the brim of a squash-coloured hat,
chambray shirt of the man who is both sower
and reaper, digging for something in the sun.
At noon a cup of weak tea for the artist,
and the couple rests gathered into another canvas.
Shadowed by the hayrick, their mounded bodies
give off heat like cattle. His face eclipsed
by his hat, her kerchiefed head nested in her arms.
They spoon into each other like the steel blades
of the sickles beside them. Man and woman
saints like him, workers in the heartland.
Vincent surveys the canvases, knows
he will not marry. He thinks of Theo and
his sister-in-law, of their baby due any day.
Thinks of his other brother, the first Vincent,
who died a year to the day before his own birth.
Their shared name carved into his boyhood
sharp as the reminder awaiting each time
he swung out the kitchen past the stone marker
of the first Vincent planted in the family plot.
He was a replacement child.
Day's last light and Vincent finishes the face
of the woman with a pat of mauve while she
steadies her toddler. He sets the man
on one knee to celebrate their child's first steps--
shovel dropped, arms flung wide in welcome.
Tethered as gate to fence, beans to post,
dug in like his easel planted in the Provence soil,
together they work the cabbages.
Rhett Watts was born in Beirut, Lebanon and has lived in New York, San Francisco, Connecticut and currently lives in Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, The Worcester Review, Connecticut River Review, Yankee Magazine, Ekphrasis, and other journals. Recent work is online in poetrymagazine.com and Sojourners Magazine. Her award winning chapbook is No Innocent Eye (Seven Kitchens Press) and her book of poems is Willing Suspension (Antrim House Books). One of her poems was included in book The Best Spiritual Writing 2000. Rhett currently facilitates writing workshops in CT and MA.
The Ekphrastic Review
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