A Maudlin Mourning for a Lonely Passion

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I really have nothing against Don McLean.

 But recently re-reading some of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother – particularly the ones around the famous incident with his ear, and leading up to the time he spent in an asylum in St. Remy – I suddenly had a visceral reaction to the song “Vincent”.

 It’s a wonderful song – it just doesn’t say, “passionate artist in great turmoil in his life, painted canvases that seem to flame and vibrate with life, sought for female companionship in a long line of prostitutes, a failure in the eyes of many, constantly in need of finances, having no real public success his entire life, cuts off part of his ear, spends time in an asylum, dies a horrible death”.

 To me. It doesn’t say that to me. I respect the song as a work of art; it just seems to be talking about someone else. That’s where this poem came from, and that’s why I used a particular word about the song which some might find offensive.

Or not. 8^).


(with apologies to Don Mclean)

Only one gifted and talented, only
a mechanic in the melodramatic could craft
such a sincere and well-meaning
emetic as “Vincent” –

a pained paean to
Vincent’s pain, meant only to

sweetly and tenderly balm and bind
his pain-worn heart — his painter’s soul such
a world of weariness–


Though perhaps he needed
just such a gentle handshake,
a kindly touch, a mother’s kiss
on his fevered brow, his

swaddled and torn ear

that night he lay
his head in bandaged blood,
it held so tight and close
in only a cotton caress,

alone in

the hospital’s gown –

and yet.

A lullaby has limited strength as
catharsis for sorrow or
descriptor of torment.

The life he led, the joy he felt,
the sorrow
to which he plunged,
cannot be plumbed –
could never be sounded by

such a sweet symphony of
however-heart-felt sentiment.

A chiaroscuro life lived
and painted in colors
both dark and deep and bright and light —

the storms and heights he flew,
the terrors he knew, the beauties he labored to birth –
the mundanity he mostly endured, all

surpass anyone’s kind-hearted intent
to limn his life in dulcet strings alone.


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