for Vincent van Gogh
My rooms at Arles were different from yours.
Reached by flights of spiral stairs,
they overlooked a paved courtyard
where trees reached blindly for the sun,
whose radiance, their bare limbs sensed,
would soon draw forth coronas of new leaves.
The building’s inner walls enclosed a marble
atrium, its artefacts and greenery
pierced by morning’s gleaming darts,
for breakfast guests to muse upon,
inhaling fumes from coffee cups
arranged on spotless damask cloths,
while sloughing off their dreams.
The decor of the boudoir was in tasteful,
neutral beige and cream; the bed too large,
the linen replaced daily by the chambermaid.
By night I’d hear the Mistral’s cohorts roughing up
the quailing trees, setting wooden shutters’
teeth on edge and causing pores to rise:
an instinctual response as ancient as Lascaux.
My suite was rented for a week – a pilgrimage
to Arles in spring, to seek out places already
familiar through your canvases; discover
if the blue you conjured with was visible,
or emanated from some source in you.