Van Gogh Paints a Self-Portrait – Ann Howells

                          It is difficult to know oneself, but
                          it isn’t easy to paint oneself either.

Is this the visage I present to the world,
unkempt scarecrow?
Wild ginger hair a hasty haystack?
Wheatfield following a storm?
Stubby beard the ass end of a billy goat?
No wonder children flee.
Mothers warn: Don’t go near the madman.
He devours children like croissants and jam.
And perhaps it will come to that —

galleries and patrons look askance at my work,
toss me summarily curbside amid canvas clatter.
The wolf, voracious creature,
perpetually pounds my door;
several times he would have slipped inside
were it not for Theo.  Dieu bénisse, Theo.
My gaunt frame would collapse upon itself

without him.
Still, I paint light-headed, tremble with hunger,
find nourishment only in my art,
inhale paint fume like savory stew,
splash skies in ever-darkening wild rivers
upon my canvas.
Steeples tilt at venomous wheeling stars.

Ann HowellsAnn Howells has edited Illya’s Honey since 1999, recently going digital and taking on a co-editor. Her publications: Under a Lone Star, Cattlemen and Cadillacs (anthology she edited), Black Crow in Flight, and Letters for My Daughter. Her Softly Beating Wings won the William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Contest for 2017.