An Illness Like Any Other
It's an illness like any other, Van Gogh wrote,
as the flashes behind his eyes kept popping
while in his hands the brush's marked determination
to continue exploded beyond the canvas, hands
and eyes, together, wrestling the mind
into some kind of submission. The glory of it
assaulted him every time. I have been working
on a size 20 canvas in the open air in an orchard,
lilac plowland, a reed fence, two pink peach trees
against a sky of glorious blue and white.
On a size 20 canvas where illness equals work,
there is nothing more or less than hands,
brushes, and eyes, scraping pink, lavender,
blue, and white zinc here and there
until the mind in her illness settles
at the edge of an orchard
shedding blossoms in brilliant light.
* The passage in italics quoted from Vincent Van
to his brother Theo dated March 30, 1888.