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Submitted on
November 1, 2009
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17 (who?)

When van Gogh lost his soul
to Japonisme,
'twas no bushy-eyed barbarian
babbling about bushido
that enthralled him, but
a docile geisha's pallid wrist,
pouring barbiturates
in his whisky –
a dominatrix
of cherry blossom
in his soul.

No wonder –

when van Gogh lost his mind
to a gunshot,
'twas no starry-eyed samurai
supplicating for seppuku
that pulled the trigger, but
a dying puppy's whimper,
storms of samsara hanging
by a whisker –
a decussation
of dead sunflowers
in his mind.
full title: van Gogh and the Orient: A Lament

preview: The Blooming Plum Tree, van Gogh

his last words say it all, I think:
"La tristesse durera toujours" (the sadness will last forever)

I understand that this is not the most accessible of poems. I hadn't quite meant for it to turn out this way, but so it has, I suppose.

decussation: crossing over of nerve cells in the brain/spinal cord

A tribute to Vincent and all the Expressionists

I'm considering entering this in =bekkia's contest 'Down with Clichés': [link]

Thoughts/comments, please?

*edit* Thanks to :icongwenavhyeuranastasia: for her line-break suggestions!
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msklystron Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Well done. I'm impressed. I love this poem for it's pregnant brevity and imagery.:)

You go into the artist's life after his love affair with Japanese prints: Van Gogh's paranoia about being poisoned, and his suicide. His madness. His images could be bold, tumultuous, even shocking (artistically, compared to the work of other artists at the time), but it was never bloody, violent, macho. I doubt I could describe the sublte point you make in the poem without writing and essay referencing many of his pieces. It's the lurking, twisted side of his insanity that comes through in his later work and gets him in the end.

I thought of Eliot too, because the similarity to the 'not with a bang but a whimper' ending. But I think your poem is also trying to convey the tenuousness of Van Gogh's hold on life in this line, "storms of samsara hanging
by a whisker " Something very fragile was strong enough to make him pull the trigger, get up and go back to his rooms with a mortal wound.
Leurindal Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010
my, my - the kind of comment every writer dreams of!

thank you very much for the insightful comment. I'm very pleased that the poem moved you and that you detected a number of its subtleties, including the Eliot phrase (I'm not sure as to whether I first encountered those repeated lines before or after I wrote this poem, but I do know that they'd really struck me).

And yes, I agree with your interpretation and am (please allow me to emphasize) very grateful to you for the attentive read :)
msklystron Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
I'm glad I came close, but really, it's all there in the words you wrote.

I think Eliot was covered in high school for me... but then that was in the 70s.
indigo-thorn Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2010   Writer
The last three lines are stunning- I like the final tone in general. It seems to communicate some of the defeat, a quiet hopelessness of bending to a weaker, softer will instead of a stronger one. I suppose that could be linked to expressionism, as well...
Leurindal Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2010
indeed, beautifully-said! Thank you very much for your comment - this poem is one of my personal favourites, so I'm extra glad that you like it :heart:
Vex0r Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2009
This is awesome, Len. The images are fresh and each word expertly placed. The shift in stanzas is, I think, beautifully assisted by the two seemingly matter-of-fact words "No wonder." Lovely piece.
Vex0r Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2010

Here's a feature for you. Glad to see you haven't left. :D
peridot-magelette Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2009
i like this. i can't quite pinpoint why. but i really do.
Leurindal Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2009
thank you! :thanks:
mindlessmaze Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2009
I'm in lack of proper comment now... but wanted to say that I like this :aww:
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