Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – Ann Howells

I have played hell somewhat
with the truthfulness of the colors.

Vincent, people whisper,
in his shabby suit. Or, Vincent
in his spattered shirt, sleeves rolled up.
Vincent, his untrimmed ginger hair,
beard a cuckoo’s nest.
Smear of umber above his eye —
tongue brush- striped ultramarine.
Do they think I don’t hear gossip?

Two years I lived with Theo in Paris,
painted sunflowers while others
painted sidewalk cafés, river boats,
frolicking follies’ dancers.
Now, closed in my room in Arles,
I again consider a still life;
unable to afford a meager bouquet,
from the flower seller’s stall
I pull a desperate fistful —
roadside sunflowers —
gawky and misunderstood as myself.
Vibrant as the sun. I’m painting
with the gusto of a Marseillais
eating bouillabaisse . . .

New pigments extend my spectrum —
paint a lifespan,
brilliant yellow to fading ochre.
Paul [Gauguin] will be arriving soon, 
and I will make his room bloom
with exuberance.
Nature, like life, is fleeting —
summer comes, summer goes.
I set my easel,
tumble into that sirens’ trap: amber,
saffron, ochre, cadmium, gamboge.

Ann HowellsAnn Howells’ work appears widely. She’s edited Illya’s Honey since 1999, recently going digital. Books: Under a Lone Star (Village Books) and Cattlemen and Cadillacs, anthology of DFW poets which she edited (Dallas Poets Community). Chapbooks: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag), Letters for My Daughter (Flutter), and Softly Beating Wings, winner of William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Contest for 2017 (Blackbead Books).