September 2019

Back to Issue 6

Blue Arles

By Jena Woodhouse

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.