expression – a poem

I’ve tried to express the time of day when one sees
the green beetles and the cicadas flying in the heat.
Vincent to Théo, letter 805,
St. Rémy de Provence, 20 September 1889

I’ll keep myself separate, painting
the cries of the others in this crazy
house, unnerving and comforting

I am not alone in my madness.
Baths soothe me, and I stay two hours. Head
under water. I can’t hear, just

the beating of blood in my ears,
my own moans. The doctor reassures me
that I am safe, lets me paint

in the garden because the bars
on my second-storey room block
the view. Aubergine-hued irises,

pale pink and white pear blossoms, jade
pines and wheat fields, blue and grey mountains,
lavender that doesn’t need an adjective.

Sometimes I see the others,
animals crawling on all-fours, eating dirt,
hear them banging their heads

on the metal cots. What will the fine
citizens of St. Rémy do if we escape
the bars, the walls, the sister nurses,

the sentinel cedars, cigalles raising
no alarm in the night? I will peddle
my paintings to buy us room and board.

Alfred Gustav Press published this poem in a chapbook, worthless, December 2018, Series Twenty. (c) 

Photo credit Monastère St-Paul-de-Mausole, St-Rémy-de-Provence.
(c) Lee Ellen Pottie

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