Vincent’s room under light

Afshan Shafi


After ‘the bedroom at Arles’ by Vincent Van Gogh

'Bedroom in Arles' by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Passerby (flickers, briefly, at the canvas):

Great blocks

of sun, pinned together,

black and diligently festering.

(a diligent scouring, a diligent fever?)

the chairs liquid with a dense scatter of flame,

the hexagonal chatter of the light; machetes

churning out the innocent's oil from his cheek.

everything bears the silver of his affliction

the brave ruby of his quilt, a reminder,

to gift more comfort to the laughter of his mind;

the cracked and nostalgic blue of the walls borne of

a neophilia for hacking out

the ore of the enclosed world.

every pore of grain and wool offers its footprint

to his stark , obtruding hands.

the echo of some great iterative darkness, keeping him there

keeping time.

a nagging praise for the sun salt veins of his turret,

angrily mastering each knot of doubt.

The artist is a bright and indignant wraith.

An ungodly pitch of the senses brings him to the golden hilt

of knowing too well, those transparent and raw mornings.

ill-bred and unresponsive , he measures his labour by conscience alone

new and inviolable pressures blow his premise out of water.


The artist (within the canvas)

There is a new song in every gnat and rhesus butterfly.

just watch the song take the body of the woman,

just watch the song take the body of the man.

soon everything will share the balance of the oceans.

limpid symmetries and dissimilar comets smooth

the surface of their chant,

black honesty is what binds us together,

beyond the spell of the deluded princes and their waifs

think. think for a second or two what constitutes your

honour or purpose?

do you let the grey clouds or the voices on the streets decide your temper?

new charlatans pronounce defeat on the other,

new sorrows and infirmities are recorded amongst the mass,

there is only loss here,

a divine gullibility rots the flaming plinth

through and through

and I am somehow

deluded with presentiment.

before I had even picked up my brush,

before I had even walked into the room

this green world was burning,

it had begun to shed the dream

when the first brick was laid

I had only turned my too cautious eye

on the steel of its first etch,

I had only turned my too cautious eye

on the manner in which it engulfed me.