Vincent's Yellow

a[n] [auto]biography and a love story.

Words for paint

For Vincent

Smooth silky serpentine
Swirl of the tongue
Of the brush
Around and over under
Just up over the back of my ear
Tickling me with

Vibrant forceful virile
Like the crest of a wave
Overtaking you
Turning you over and around
In its insides
Like a lick of fire
Singeing the hairs on your neck
Yet you are inside the wet
Inside the insides
Like pins pricking
and daggers dragging
spilling your blood into the
mixture until
you are both
Inside Outside
Consumed Consuming
and we are dancing
eating each other alive

You roll me around in your mouth
like nothing
like tumbleweed on rolling hills
and I fall deep into your chasms
and I bounce
Flying –
Fiercely –
Over your peaks

with long, wet, heavy seaweed arms
you wrap around me
and pull me over under into
your water dreams
the surface of which
impacts me with a bruising
A slap in the
in the body

I’d go tumbling backwards
but your tendrils
yank me through
as though fastened to my
skeleton directly

There is no escape
From you
As you apply me to your canvas
Like paste
And string me through
Your fingers
I am your liquid color

And you will shape me use me
At your will
You layer me on thick
Or let me just barely drift on
Till there is nothing left but a drop
A trace left
And then I am gone

You fill me
You buoy me
And then unravel me
nothing more
a sigh

I wrote the above poem just over two years ago, in reaction to these paintings. It was the first time Vincent elicited poetry from me, and it would not be the last. In fact, it is my favorite way to respond to him. Or as I once put it, I write back to him.

What some people do not know about Vincent, and something I surely did not know, was that he was a voracious reader. In one letter from June of 1880 he compares writing and painting, as he saw them as linked, and perhaps two of the highest art forms.

But you see, there are several things that are to be believed and to be loved; there’s something of Rembrandt in Shakespeare and something of Correggio or Sarto in Michelet, and something of Delacroix in V. Hugo, and in Beecher Stowe there’s something of Ary Scheffer. And in Bunyan there’s something of M. Maris or of Millet, a reality more real than reality, so to speak, but you have to know how to read him; then there are extraordinary things in him, and he knows how to say inexpressible things; and then there’s something of Rembrandt in the Gospels or of the Gospels in Rembrandt, as you wish, it comes to more or less the same, provided that one understands it rightly, without trying to twist it in the wrong direction, and if one bears in mind the equivalents of the comparisons, which make no claim to diminish the merits of the original figures.

If now you can forgive a man for going more deeply into paintings, admit also that the love of books is as holy as that of Rembrandt, and I even think that the two complement each other. [full letter]

The first time I really saw Vincent nearly four years ago in the Musée d’Orsay, my instinctive reaction was that we saw the world similarly, and that… as ballsy as it may sound, I write like he paints. I think what I really saw was that we had similar spirits and similar goals with our work. A passionate, spiritual non-fiction, if you will. For Vincent insisted on always painting from life, in fact on occasion he destroyed paintings that he had not painted from life because of that very fact. Except for the short period of time where Gauguin convinced him to do otherwise, Vincent was a man of the actual, the real, but also about reaching something higher… I have always felt the same about my poetry and my prose. And so, in this project, I try to reflect Vincent. I try to exchange paint for words.

I hope you enjoyed the poem, Reader. Now, I return back to my sisyphean task (as least that’s how it often feels) of composing a first draft of my play by the end of the month. I think I can in fact do it, but it will take an enormous amount of effort this week.

So, I speak to myself and to all my fellow artists out there now when I say… onwards!

Mon, January 25 2010 » Personal

One Response

  1. Judy Veramendi January 25 2010 @ 16:44

    I am sure that Vincent equally adores you from the star he’s perched on! How warm and sensuous on a cold winter day…Thank you.

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