Van Gogh, After an Attack by Bob Bradshaw

Van Gogh, After an Attack

Theo, I’m doing better.
The attack came like thunder

out of a clear sky.
For weeks I couldn’t think straight.

What I need now
is the distraction of work,

and quickly:
the trees’ flowering season

is nearly spent.
When will I be allowed

to paint outside? The creamy
blossoms of almond trees,

and the pinks of the flowering
plum trees, awash

in the afternoon mistrals,
will soon be lost.

These mistrals can shred a man
like thistle.

On the day of my attack
I was supporting my easel

with big rocks,
the canvas trembling.

I finished the painting
in a fog:

it was as if my brushstrokes
were birds who knew

instinctively where
to fly to.

I am sending you a number
of rolled up canvases–

blue hills and yellow cornfields
under a lemony sky

viewed from my window.
You must frame them in white

like brides, their future
ahead of them.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: Art lovers will recognize this poem’s narrative—Van Gogh writing to his brother Theo. This poem bridges the gap between words and the imagery that informed so much of the artist’s life.