Dreaming on Paper
Using a reed pen on large sheets of paper,
he translated sky, rocks, fields into dots,
jabs, scratches. They try to catch the wind
in olive branches, the gnarled trunks, the way
the light lay down. You can sense colour,
though it isn’t there: brown earth, yellow grain,
blue sky. In thousands of letters, drawings, diaries,
Van Gogh laboured with paper and ink.
He made peace with his own awkwardness, using
reeds from the Midi fields sharpened into pens.
Each could only hold a little bit of ink at a time,
so he devised his own notation, a kind of Morse code,
which he varied again and again. As he reinvented drawing,
he found himself. By the time he was in the asylum at St. Rémy,
he was drawing everything: nesting curls for the flickering flames
of the cypresses, a splash of black in a sunny landscape;
the farmyards of Auvers; clouds that billowed in staccato lines.
Right before he shot himself, he told Theo, I still love art
and life very much. Finally, he’d found how to make
the hardest thing he had ever tried look easy. And then,
the wheat field, with crows.
This poem was first published in Barbara Crooker's book, Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017).
Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017) is the most recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and she has received a number of awards, including the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her website is www.barbaracrooker.com
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