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Posts Tagged ‘ekphrasis’



after the painting “The Bedroom” by Vincent van Gogh and the piano composition “Yellow Bed” by Kayleen Asbo


In the tilted room with the yellow bed,
hope waltzes on the wooden floor—
one, two, three, one, two, three—
not that you see it there,
it’s not obvious like the windows,
the paintings, the mirror, the pitcher, the chairs.
Hope is what you don’t see.
But there it is, beside the water glasses,
beside the long towel, swaying so keenly
to snatches of melody
that the whole room seems to sway.
And it’s one, two, three,
one, two, three; Who, hope says,
will dance with me? It promises
friendship. It promises rest.
Will you dance? it asks, a dizzy mess.
It promises community. It promises fame.
Will you dance? it asks, but it smells
of paint and faraway dreams.
It smells of madness and longing to be seen.
Will you dance? it says, its arms flung out.
Here is where Vincent said yes.
Some see a still life, but others see
the whirling, the twirling, the beautiful
spinning of hope, reeling hope, fragile hope.

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     inspired by Landscape at Auvers in the Rain by Vincent van Gogh and Rain at Auvers by Kayleen Asbo

Sometimes when it rains
I forget it will ever stop raining.
The rain, it falls,
it falls for days, it falls,
and the rain becomes
a metric imperative,
insistent as a stop watch,
familiar as the pulsing
of blood in the heart,
a throbbing, a beat so adamant
I forget any other tune.
Did you forget, Vincent,
the rain would stop?
Did you feel its urgency
as boldly as you painted
the long diagonal strokes?
I can’t look at your painting
without feeling inside me the rain,
feel it slant across my world
in thick dark lines.
I can’t look at the purples
and yellows of Auvers
without remembering how three days
after you painted them,
you would take your life.
But how could I vilify the storm
even knowing what I do?
You found in the tumult
light.
You fueled the dampened, darkened world
with ecstatic gold.
You didn’t push the storm away, Vincent.
You let it drench you.
You shared with us all
how struggle, too,
is so terribly beautiful.

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inspired by Eternity’s Gate by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo, with quotes from van Gogh’s writings about the painting


Perhaps you, too, have sat
in the corner of a room,
bent like winter grass,
elbows on your knees,
head weighty in your hands.
Spent. Exhausted.
Unsure how to live
another minute.
This is perhaps
the moment
we least want to be seen,
but if we are lucky,
perhaps a painter
with an eye for eternity
will feel it his duty
to find in our ruin
something precious,
something noble,
something unutterably moving
something to help us
know ourselves
as a part of infinity,
our life a brief song,
unbearably beautiful,
a masterpiece,
dark and descending
though it is.   

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inspired by the painting “Winter (The Vicarage Garden Under Snow)” by Vincent Van Gogh and the piano composition “Winter Fields” by Kayleen Asbo


While he painted the world in browns and grays,
Vincent van Gogh did not yet know
of the throbbing vibrance that would someday
emerge from inside him. He did not yet know
how these somber scenes—like a man alone
shoveling the dim weight of winter—
would give way to an ecstasy of gold,
an elation of blue, rapturous green.
God, I am drawn to these grim, gritty scenes
with their muted schemes and tangled branches,
searching for notes of what will happen—
how he will travel to the warmth of Provence,
will come to share through thick stroke and bright hue
“the terrible passions of humanity.”
How he will give everything, everything to his art—
how his talent will grow as the world breaks his heart,
how he will change the way we see beauty,
how melancholy will never leave him.
I imagine him sitting in the bleak Dutch cold,
painting the dreary, dissonant snow,
becoming the painter he’s destined to be,
haunted by what he does not yet know.






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inspired by the painting “The Sower” by Vincent van Gogh and piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo


Forever, the farm laborer depicted in oils
strides across the field
throwing seeds in an ostinato sowing.
Forever, the sun behind his back
pulses radiant, glowing golden.
Though the worker is caught mid-step
as he swings back his arm in the blue-ish light,
we know the work is never done.
Forever will there be mouths to feed
and grain to grow and the need
for one who unstintingly sows.
It is said the only thing necessary
for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing. And so the sower keeps sowing.
Though forever there will be floods
and droughts, bugs and mold and blight.
Forever will the crows descend
to follow the sower and eat the seed.
Though loss. Though poverty.
Though depression. Though war.
The sower sows despite. The sower sows because—
The sower sows for that is what a sower does.

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inspired by Almond Blossom by Vincent van Gogh and music by Kayleen Asbo by the same name



I want to hang a painting
of almond blossoms
above your bed
so when you wake
the first thing you see
are delicate white petals
and a sky a thousand shades of blue.
I want you to wake every morning
to an ever emerging spring.
Of course, the fall.
Of course, the aching world.
And of course, the almond blossoms,
painted in creams, pinks and greens
each one an insistent grace note
that lingers beyond its season,
something improbable, necessary,
like beauty, like hope.

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Inspired by “Impasse des Deux Frères” by Vincent van Gogh and Kayleen Asbo’s musical response, “Moulins de Gallette.”


Some days, like today, I long for rain,
long for the muted, grey kind of day
that unfolded in the oils of van Gogh,
when he’d stroll through the flat
and quiet daytime streets of Montmartre,
those dreamy hours when the world
is not too bright, not overly exultant,
not too sure of its gaiety,
a day when the wind is the only thing
that feels it needs to move,
when I don’t need to know anything
about anything, can notice how
the world resists resolution,
how the barest scrap of color
can change the whole scene,
can let myself be content to be gray,
can let myself be a student of windmills,
notice how it’s the invisible forces
like relentless love, like persistent wind,
that make the whole world spin.

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inspired by “First Steps” (after Millet) by Vincent Van Gogh and a song by the same name by Kayleen Asbo


Like a sweet and lyrical song
that ends long before the heart is satisfied —
like the first pale green of spring
that disappears by morning,
those first steps of a child.
How we cheer. How we celebrate
the very thing that will lead
our child away from the shelter
of our arms. And still,
even knowing what I know now
of loss and grief, memory insists
on repainting those first steps
in only the loveliest hues.
Years later, I am still kneeling,
arms open, stunned
by the beauty of independence,
thrilled by those first uncertain steps.
Oh my child, who can say
where your steps take you now?
Though my heart breaks, my god,
still I cheer for you.

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inspired by “Wheat Field with Crows” painted by Vincent van Gogh and “Blackbirds” composed by Kayleen Asbo


Oh Vincent, I long to pause with you
where the three paths converge in the wheat field.
We can stand there beneath the sullen sky
like two piano notes side by side,
which, when played at the same time,
rub against each other
in an awkward, uncomfortable music.
Sometimes what unsettles us
is so unbearably beautiful.
I want to meet you in this moment
before you return to a wheat field
with not a brush, but a gun,
want to meet you in this moment
before the choice, before the shot,
this moment when there are still three paths,
all of them leading beyond the frame.
Let’s linger here, Vincent,
beneath the dark arpeggios of crows,
linger here while everything is still possible.
The storm is coming, I see it, too,
turbulent and full of change
while in the honest wheat, look,
you’ve shared so much light, so much gold.

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            while listening to Kayleen Asbo’s “Cypresses”


The wind, that knows itself only by what
it touches, does not whip your hair
as it churns through the wide golden wheat fields,
does not steal your hat as it tosses
the clouds into frothy white and violet whorls,
does not slap your face as you stare
at the silver-green branches of olive trees
upswept into turbulent curves. You’re just looking.

Until you realize the wind has breached the frame
and touched you the way it touches all that it loves,
and your heart knows what it perhaps wishes
it did not know—that all is changed and rearranged,
all gets stirred up and remade, even the cypress,
even the mountains, even the stubborn heart.


you can see the painting here

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