Bedroom in Arles
This ekphrastic poem was written in December of 2011 in response to the painting of the same name by Vincent van Gogh. First published in Quill and Parchment, January 2012. Also published in On the Arts by Naomi Beth Wakan (Gabriola, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2016). Please also read Bedroom Conversation, a brief email interchange with Marijke Verkaik about this poem and ekphrastic poetry. See also an excerpt from Cognitive Grammar in Literature, in which this poem is discussed by Polish linguistics professor Alina Kwiatowska. See my “Response to Alina Kwiatowska.” See also “Ekphrastic Assimilations” and “Visual plus Poetry plus Zines”.
My bedside books are dreams to drink,
paths to lap up, absinthe to imbibe.
I have reading glasses now,
and tall stacks of books seem as rickety as me,
till a new bookcase finds room in the house.
The carpet is more worn from door to bed
than ever before, nights of reading
distorting the pillow trapped under my side.
The tiny lamp I use keeps my wife
from waking, and somehow words
show me the road where I will go.
In Arles, the painter’s room has no dreams,
no carpet or books, or glasses to speak of
old age. The bed just wide enough
for a single man, its only dreams
may be the colours in paintings
hung carelessly on vivid walls,
yet the window stays closed
Even a bullet to the chest
such bookless, dreamless sadness.