“Van Gogh” by Ellyn Maybe

Van Gogh

There’s a man who looks like Van Gogh cartwheeling through the sky again.
I said what brings you here.
He said I get bored in heaven sometimes.
Everything is taken care of.
All the chocolates, all the paints,
all the books, nothing on TV of course.
I want to come closer to all the scurrying people.
Rushing quickly as though they could outrun death.
I used to take all day to feel what the peasants felt.
What the crows were cawing at.
Life was simpler then but still so hard.
I knew someday I’d make a living but I didn’t live to see that day.
If you knew Vincent, why?
Knowing and actually seeing for your own eyes,
Its such a chasm.
No it’s more than that.
I was lonely. The colors I made.
red yellow blue
became orange green purple
I could make one color disappear into another.
It was seamless.
I thought my loneliness was like that.
Some other feeling would mix with it and I’d have serenity.
But my palette was a little short.
I don’t know. It goes sometimes like that.
I made good use of my time.
I’ve had a long time in Heaven.
Vincent, are you saying this to make me feel better?
Well, yes and no.
I wanted to know the Earth more.
So I come down on the biggest playground slide God ever made and look at life each week.
Once a week I feel everything on Earth as thought I were still human, more than spirit.
I used to come down every night. Now once a week is all I can take.
The 20th Century was more than I could bare.
We look at you from Heaven.
You’re living in Guernica. Picasso agrees.
We thought you’d learn from the Inquisition, the many Joan of Arcs we don’t know about.
We thought you’d become peaceful.
When I say you I mean your species.
He spat the word and I knew exactly what he meant.
World War Two
We were dead so we went to the camps to say prayers for our breathren.
There are people who refused to go back to Heaven for a few years after seeing what went on there.
They painted shrouds.
They painted landscapes inside their eyelids.
Many went crazy.
Heaven is not just cotton candy clouds, harps and angels.
We watch you.
Yep, you are our movie of the week.
We don’t want you more than once a week.
Even the dead need peace now and then.
I said Vincent, did you ever find love?
There was this day the print in my favorite book began to dance with me. I took it for love.
There was this day I heard the music the birds sang and I became a bird but more I became music.
There were many days.
Yes that love I found.
Suddenly I said Vincent
Are you my guardian artist?
He said yes.
He said all I needed to know.

(From the chapbook Praha and the Poet (2006)

Ellyn Maybe has performed her poetry all over the country, including Bumbershoot,the Poetry Project, the New School, Taos Poetry Circus, South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, Albuquerque Poetry Festival and Seattle Poetry Festival. She has also read in Europe at the Bristol Poetry Festival, on the BBC, and in poetry slams and readings in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart. She opened the MTV Spoken Wurd Tour in Los Angeles. In addition, she has also read at USC, UCLA, CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, among other colleges. Writer’s Digest named her one of ten poets to watch in the new millennium. Her work has been included in many anthologies, including Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, Poetry Slam, Another City: Writing From Los Angeles, Poetry Nation, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and American Poetry: The Next Generation. She was on the 1998 and 1999 Venice Beach Slam teams. She was seen reading her work in Michael Radford’s (Il Postino) film Dancing at the Blue Iguana.


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