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Two Chairs 1888

by Blaine Greenwood

        As we advance in  life it becomes more and more
difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost
strength of the heart is developed.
                -- Vincent Van Gogh

Two chairs like brothers in a sacred place, 
        two contrary brothers -
                both in style of Japanese,
        unholy pairing in this yellow house.

Painted by day, Vincent,
your chair saw the sun -
        its woven seat, its sturdy legs, its rungs -
its golden wood reflects the sun -
        soft thin yellow, tan and orange,
this chair sits in emptiness of blue
        white green room of glacial jade,
the walls disjoint, sharp and precise
        beside green door,
this chair peasant made -
        with pipe and tobacco on its seat,
        chair of once the pastor and pastor's son,
here this chair sits alone on red tiled floor -
        with spouting onions
        in tiny Vincent coffin behind
- with dreams of Japan in Arles gone.

Painted at night, Vincent,
you paint Paul's arm chair,
        lit by stiff candle and gas lamp
        that burns on verdant wall -
large throne with leaf and rust on padded seat,
        its sculpted legs reveal
        curved blue shadow on expensive wood.
It sits on distorted,
floating floor of esoteric thought,
        on floor full of ocean waves
        with illuminated crests.
Two novels and a hammer sit upon the seat,
        rich textured seat for him -
hot blooded Latin that he was,
        with taste for pleasure
        and the primitive.

On this canvas you drown his chair,
drown him in color -
        thick, bold, dark,
        in jagged, poorly blended strokes 
Vincent, are you angry or afraid of him? -
        Flora Tristan's haughty grand son, 
        mystic painter
        of angel wrestler
        and tawny crucifixion scene.    

Two chairs sit empty in the yellow house -
        two chairs in house,
        in empty house,
        in house painted
        with rich yellow of the south
where the sky a heaven's blue;
        ... in the yellow house
        these empty chairs
        so full of grief.

---Blaine Greenwood, 2003

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