“Van Gogh’s Ear” by Carol Barrett


Salome Carrying the Head of St. John the Baptist, c.1549 (oil on canvas) by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (c.1488-1576)


Van Gogh’s Ear

The one Gauguin nipped off,
sword flicking easy as a fly
from a melon, the argument
bled out under a pact
of silence. Vincent delivered
his own sliced fruit
to a lady of the night.
Perhaps she, the sinewy subject
of artistic debate. Surely not
a matter of camel brush
or palette. They were friends
once, the eared, the one-eared.
Not so, the Colonel’s ears
floating in water glasses,
dried peach halves
Forche would have us believe.
(He wanted to impress her,
and succeeded famously.)
Nor that other deliverance,
St. John the Baptist’
visage on a platter
for the pleasure of a dancer,
lithe, bare-breasted,
smooth as wine. Look
to the women in these veiled
and sordid plots, these grisly
portraits. They are almonds
and apricots in the dark oil
of men. En guard.


Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. The recipient of an NEA fellowship in Poetry, she has published two books, including the prize-winning Calling in the Bones from Ashland Poetry Press (2005) and over 200 poems in literary magazines and anthologies. She lives in Bend, Oregon.



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