2 Ekphastic Poems

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Mulberry Tree in Autumn
October 1889

Van Gogh’s Mulberry Tree in Autumn

I imagine my hand 
lightly resting, bolstered
by yours as you hold 
your brush above the canvas.
You stand in front of your easel,
thumb hooked around your palette.
You lay out oils thick and creamy. 
The faintest custard oozes into intense 
curls of gold paint.

I beg you Teach me
to master elements of contrast.
The way you reach into the sky
and pull that electric blue 
onto your canvas and then swirl
tentacles of autumn’s coppery leaves 
onto the center of the painting.

Whisper in my ear the meaning of this tree.

Were you ordained to root yourself to the ground?
Were you celebrating a good day among
the bad after your head erupted and exploded
in ways you could not control?
Were you seeking to preserve the moment
as though you could drink mulberry leaves
and live forever.

I Expect To Come Back Here

June 4, 1888

Dear Theo,

At last, I’ve made my way
to the Mediterranean
here to Saintes Maries.
You would like it here.
The colors would hypnotize you.
I wish you could see the sea—
The color of mackerel—always changing
before I can blink.
Just like that,
reflections shift and shimmer.
I could eat
all the colors of the water.
Today, however, I must tell you
about the wind.

I ask myself, How can I convey
such a formless thing?
I brush blues and greens and purples
into lilts and laps and ripples,
stroke them across the canvas.
You should see how the skippers
buffet their way over the waves.
The clouds scuttle across the sky
as if some great hands
push them about.
I taste the wind
laced with water and salt,
a healing elixir for me.
Even the briny fish smell delights me.
I could live forever
by the sea.
Oh, dear lad,
I wish you could join me here.

A handshake for you.

Ever yours,

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, The Sea of Les Saintes-de-la-Mer
June 1888

Peggy Heitmann

Peggy Heitmann is an award-winning poet who recently published poems in Mockingowl Roost, Kakalak, Heron Clan, among others. You can find Peggy reading her poem, Love Portrait at Sixty-Five on WNIJ’s Poetically Yours January 4th show. She considers herself both word and visual artist. Peggy lives in Raleigh, NC area with her husband her two cats.

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