Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Sheila Elliott

(Inspired by a painting of the same title by Vincent Van Gogh, displayed in an on-line collection of work by that artist by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.)

You willed the bluest shadow an oak floor would allow,
Vincent, blue not settling easily on a wood strong enough
to hold his chair–this chair–which was, and is, perfectly
fine. So, too, the symbols found here, each one sweetly
understood–a closed book provoking no argument, a
good candle is always willing to sprout a friendly
flame. Gas light’s heat was beyond the reach of even
you, though. So, too, the intensity of sunlight disappearing.
Night, again.

It approaches, and you must do what you can do. You have
been left with Gauguin’s chair and, alone, you can hear the
breath of your paintbrush closing in on what it is you have
to paint. You look and so then reveal how the chair’s
veneer is failing, how it is losing a war with wear and tear,
how its arm rests shine from so much use. But, look, look,
you seem to say, ‘Look here, at this chair’s intricacies,
look at its carpentered structure firm, sound. Why was it
not enough?

You’ve given more than enough, Vincent. In this pageant of
oils we can hear your footsteps, nervousness undisguised.
How you must have paced in that room, brush in hand, until
your floor was speckled with drops small as flotsam that
settled on a floor the color of weak tea. They must have scattered
soundlessly around Gauguin’s chair, its cushion, plump and
green as a spring blossom. Anyone can see what you could not say,
anyone who has ever anguished over a freshly
reopened space.

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