on Van Gogh

Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
(teal and prussian-blue)

Father scuffled with the taste of saltpetre still sticking unstintingly to his tongue, and the lustre of a candle which, already nearly drowned by its own wax, sobbed intermittently, enervating his eyes. Here, an horizon. There, an horizon; tessellating the sides of a glass as the canary-green flood subsided, in altisonant tongues of water slapping the hull, in the two very-white blocks of light bounced from each iris — those transient lovers becoming one united streak whenever the source was richest — and seemingly everywhere: an horizon, wide as widest be, grand as grandest they come, and if I were to stop, then, centred in such a massive mouth of sky and water, and closed my eyes and braced to be swallowed, perhaps then, in that will-never-be-moment, as in Ammons’ Admission, I could have «broken away from the final room». Little is imaginable then, as my eyes pierced the very fabric of nothingness; reached a hidden point beyond the sea-line, and my mind, obliquitous as if dragged by a long velveteen rope, would think of «La Damoiselle élue», which was being so candidly played that night by one such neglected lounge pianist; a lounge so far enclaved at the very tip of the bow, it felt as if it fluttered atop the ocean and never grazed it, never gashed the sea with that effusive separation of bloods and bodies so characteristic of vessels as massive as that one was.

Father disliked crowds; they scrambled his brain. After years of successive neurasthenias and depressions, his thoughts trailed off celeritously, plumes of smoke to be blown one on top of another, some expired upwards or downwards, infusing another parcel or topic with a distinct scent of petrichor after a wildfire; others would be expired right ahead, one after one, each large brunt of smoke puncturing the other as they coalesced in some hallowed destructive waltz, the kind Limón would have liked. As I fluttered off, imagining which unfathomable, implacable beauty hid itself beneath a secret point in a realm with the single material of horizon, so did father, who, himself looking at his own abstract subterfuge, would express all manners of disgust at how the space of the lounge was designed; the golden-corinthian crowns which stood in precise dissonance to the garish teal wallpaper mottled with crested parsley; the disposition of the oblong seats, prussian-hued, which mooned around the room in such odd, aleatory ways. “How ugly it all is“, he repeated, “a brass foot-rest with zebrano counters!, vulgar, criminal!“, in an infinite punctuation of repulse that, as the taste of saltpetre, would cling and stack and grow until the thought just trailed off, perhaps fallen into the unwounded sea. As so, we’d spend every night in that cruise, and after he had his third canary-green spirit, he would allow me to stand, silentious, behind the pianist, studying the score. Playing The Blessed Damsel now reminds me of gold and teal, acanthus and parsley, smoke and brass; ugliness, infinitude; a cold and hungry horizon which, in the dullness of magnetism, wholly lacks any compassion.


Published by João-Maria

A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

18 thoughts on “on Van Gogh

    1. Father has been selling his taste for some decades now. One could almost say he is more taste than man.
      To this day, I disagree with him. I did like the gold-Corinthian crowns with a teal wallpaper, it reminds me of the first Deco interiors. That mute opulence…
      He was right about the brass and the zebrano counters, though. What a crime.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. The first paragraph is quite beautiful João-Maria, and I mean that to encompass not just the information you are conveying to the reader but also it’s aesthetically gorgeous – elegant no less, when I read I sway a little to it. You have such a fine vocabulary I cannot believe you are only two years old! Hahahahaha. This not to take away from the second part in which your characterful father shows such distaste for the decor, which I must admit sounds quite inviting a scene personally.

    Your ‘The Blessed Damsel’ took me right back to Rossetti

    The sun was gone now; the curled moon
    Was like a little feather
    Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
    She spoke through the still weather.
    Her voice was like the voice the stars
    Had when they sang together.

    I don’t know anything like it to be a musical piece, is it one of your own?

    And there you were all the time right under my nose. *smiles*

    – Esme waving upon the Cloud

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I owe much of my style to brilliant masters that I won’t ever get to thank, among them my strongest prosaic inspiration, W.G. Sebald.
      My vocabulary is also deceitful, as I loosely translate common Portuguese words into their not-so-common English mirrorings, such as “perdurar” means to endure or persist in English, but it’s actual equivalent is “perdure”, which isn’t common at all. This, it manufactures this heightened vocabulary, which I suppose to be the only quality of translation. I’ve come to know such nitid English words, and English is such a rich language used so lithely nowadays.

      Now, “The Blessed Damozel” is indeed a poem by Rossetti, but that poem inspired one of my favoured cantatas of all time, “La Damoiselle élue”, by Debussy! In fact, I believe the painting, poem and music are among the most brilliant combinations among the pantheon of collaborative Art.
      Though not all of the cantata can be played on a piano, of course, Debussy did make a piano reduction of it later on, and that’s the one accited in the text, and the one I know how to play!

      I’m jubilant that you’re finding reading me such a warm experience. Especially in this phase of doldrums.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am, and it helps to have an unexpected joy in these unsettling times without doubt *smiles* – I fell in love with Pre-Raphaelite art when I began my degree many moons ago; the art museum nearby has a large collection of which I have seen countless times. I can see why you love the three-fold experience of The Blessed Damozel, I’ve just listened to Debussy and know the piece, quite beautiful. I’ve only seen the sketch for one of the heads of that particular painting, but that alone is striking. I had Lady Lilith as my avatar for a good few years online (not upon the Cloud) as I was so keen on the work. It was such a creative movement!

        Encouragement, even that of just one person who ‘gets’, tunes into writing can make the difference between people giving up completely or blooming into superbly talented inkers. So I am sure to dole some out when I see potential such as yours.

        If I had any advice it would be as follows; do not make any piece overly long if possible as you’ll lose people, sometimes this is impossible to avoid but it is always important to bear in mind. Secondly, do not get too hung up on the precise nature of ‘the rules’ once you have learned them. Whilst it’s important to know how poetry and the English language works, once you have all those rules under your belt you are in a position to throw a few out of the window every now and again. For instance e.e. cummings often eschewed capitals and played around wildly with punctuation and yet his poetry is brilliant at times. He was looking at it as a piece of art as well as writing –

        a clown’s smirk in the skull of a baboon by e.ecummings

        a clown’s smirk in the skull of a baboon
        (where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stirred)
        my mirror gives me,on this afternoon;
        i am a shape that can but eat and turd
        ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird,
        a coward waiting clumsily to cease
        whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
        a hand’s impression in an empty glove,
        a soon forgotten tune, a house for lease.
        I have never loved you dear as now i love

        behold this fool who, in the month of June,
        having certain stars and planets heard,
        rose very slowly in a tight balloon
        until the smallening world became absurd;
        him did an archer spy(whose aim had erred
        never)and by that little trick or this
        he shot the aeronaut down,into the abyss
        -and wonderfully i fell through the green groove
        of twilight, striking into many a piece.
        I have never loved you dear as now i love

        god’s terrible face, brighter than a spoon,
        collects the image of one fatal word;
        so that my life(which liked the sun and the moon)
        resembles something that has not occurred:
        i am a birdcage without any bird,
        a collar looking for a dog, a kiss
        without lips; a prayer lacking any knees
        but something beats within my shirt to prove
        he is undead who, living, noone is.
        I have never loved you dear as now i love.

        Hell(by most humble me which shall increase)
        open thy fire! for i have had some bliss
        of one small lady upon earth above;
        to whom i cry, remembering her face,
        i have never loved you dear as now i love

        Thirdly, don’t feel your usage of unusual words or terms feel lesser for being due to translation, quite the opposite, it’s rather handy I’d say and is clearly working an absolute treat, and fourthly fear not that an older lady has taken interest in your work with aims that are beyond platonic, you are quite safe. Hahahahaha. I add the last because this is the internet and there are some strange folk around, plus I’m quite upfront about being in love with letters alone. (And sticky buns. I do love a sticky bun.)

        – Esme Cloud eating one

        Liked by 1 person

      2. (I love sticky buns too, lofty friend)

        Your comment comes at a complicated time, Esme. I have these cycles of creative hopelessness, and though, in one hand, your words ripple me, because your encouragement is beautiful, I stand in a moment of complete dissonance.
        For the past month, I’ve curated a composition that has obsessed m — the longest yet — and in each posting I make, I position myself, once more, to lose people. I’ve come to terms with my “nicheness”; that I’m not, one might say, for everyone in the front and everyone in the back. Only a very specific sort of people will connect with what I say and feel any sort of richness in it, and I’m okay with that. I’m always fearful of loss, of waning, but… this is what I am, Esme, this is my expression, at least at this moment.

        I knew that poem by e.e.cummings, and I’m a tremendous fan of his work; I’m very glad you are too! Though I do not think of myself as much of formbreaker, I’d like to experiment more with visual effects on the verses, as those I did on “notes on the creative corpse”.

        I confess I’m a bit enraptured by your length comment. I must mull on it. I’ve been warned of it multiple times in the past, but something compels me. Perhaps the trick is figuring out what.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anand. You truly needn’t read me, and I didn’t comment for sycophantic purposes. I understand we do not enjoy the same creative realm.
      If you liked my paltry prose in spite of it, I’m very glad. Your compliment is received with the highest of regards, truly.


      1. If that comment implied that I misinterpreted your comments, I do apologize. I was genuinely curious to check your work out and as you pointed out, we do work in different creative realms, and that piqued my curiosity further. I can’t write about art or literature as I can film about films, and I always appreciate when someone does. Please do not belittle yourself by saying paltry prose. This is truly good work. I also noticed in the comments that you are fond of Sebald. As one fan of Sebald to another, I think you are very talented and I encourage you to keep writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I did not extract that substance from your comment. I just always fear that, in commenting, I appear to be attempting to draw attention to my own work, which is never the case. For some reason, I’m truly afeared of appearing in such way.
        Sebald is one of my most prized authors, and to be considered talented in the angled light of his expression is, perhaps, among the highest order of compliments. I’m truly grateful, Anand. Not only do I respect the work of Sebald endless, I also have a tremendous respect for your writing, and that coalescence makes me as jubilant as one can be.

        Liked by 1 person

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