Lines to Restore Van Gogh’s Ear
Somewhere near, a fruit bat is
grooming its flared
downy ear, while all the ears of corn in Iowa
are boosting their silky tufts skyward.
on a sunny afternoon, an insect
resembling a large ant, with orange fur
covering its abdomen and thorax,
makes a dash for the ditch
across the asphalt.
Late at night, after their owners
are asleep, all the earrings
in La Honda, California dream
of Grizzly Ryder, who lost part of an ear
when thirst drew him down
to Bear Gulch Creek.
Like a tireless ear, the blue
canyon funnels a whistling gust
of wind, and again the old desert nods.
In a sea of information, the sporting
dolphins may be thinking that a human ear,
like a small pink leaf, might make
a loving keepsake,
Tucked under the brains
of all living bipeds, there are
tiny paired drums, drumming,
Amongst the touch-tone
phones in France, there persists
a rumor that one of their ancestors
touched the ear
of Vincent Van Gogh.
(Originally published in Snail River: Poems, 1985-1993, Quarterly Review of Literature Award Series, Copyright 1995 by Quarterly Review of Literature. Reprinted by permission of the author.)
James Bertolino’s poetry has received recognition through the Discovery Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, two Quarterly Review of Literature book publication awards and, in 2007, the Jeanne Lohmann Poetry Prize for Washington State Poets. His 24 poetry collections have been published by 18 presses in nine states, and Every Wound Has A Rhythm is his eleventh full volume. He has taught creative writing at Cornell University, University of Cincinnati, Western Washington University, the North Cascades Institute and, in 2006, retired from a position as Writer-in-Residence at Willamette University in Oregon. 2012 is the fourth year he has served as poetry judge for the American Book Awards, sponsored by the Before Columbus Foundation in Berkeley. He lives on five rural acres near Bellingham, Washington with his talented wife Anita, a horse, a dog and two cats.