Van Gogh Leaves Paris By Train for Arles by Bob Bradshaw

Van Gogh Leaves Paris By Train for Arles

Theo, gazing out at the passing landscapes
I thought of you.

Here in the south, snow
on the distant mountains

reminds me of Japanese prints,
the clear air defining

everything in bold shapes,
like those in woodcuts.

In this brighter light
fewer strokes will be needed.

The land is rather flat,
and near dusk a red sun

settles into the snowy horizon,
melts, and the long night begins.

There aren’t the refuges
we had in Paris, and Arles

is expensive. I don’t know
where I can find affordable

canvases and paints. However,
the morning light makes up

for everything. There is a dusting
of snow on the ground, and yet

flowering orchards thrive
in the fresh light.

There are grey olive trees, orange banks,
washerwomen in white bonnets,

a green river flecked with gold,
and red vineyards.

The place has the optimism
that school girls dressed up

for a spring play have—
the peach and plum trees as lit up

as bridesmaids, pink
and white blossoms

in their hair. Theo, I hope
you can make your way often

to Arles. Spread the word.
In time we can form a colony

of artists in the south,
where there are fewer distractions,

but with russet footbridges,
cobalt skies, a citron sun…

I’m not young, but I’m not
finished yet. I can do new things,

work you can be proud of.
Look, in Arles even a bent old

apple tree holds sprays
of flowers.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: The vivid imagery in this epistolary poem effortlessly supports the underlying allegory. Lovers of Van Gogh’s artwork will find this a delightful read.