Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossoms”
When he went to Arles, he was looking for light,
light that would let him imagine Japan, those stark contrasts,
but still Van Gogh’s tremulous spirit takes flight
in those branches, unstable and asymmetric
against the sunny blue skies of the south of France.
Here, the outline of the pink and cream blossoms
framed almost out of focus, merely caught in the middle
of the frame. He says in the letter, “The almond tree flowers
despite the snow,” and wrote of hope. He is so close
to ukiyo-e, the floating world, then, but he doesn’t know it
yet. He lets the spring happen within his paintings,
some branches bearing buds still closed, wandering
through orchards, his eyes still full of Japan’s ikebana,
their perfect imperfection, as he waits for the sun
to bring the perfect brightness to warm him, his trees.
• • •
Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry—Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World—as well as winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Best Horror of the Year. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter: @webbish6.