A Study on Four Artists

I. Van Gogh’s Patch of Flowers

Flaming red, they gleam in the sunlight of Arles,
The poppies in summer strewn along the paths.
The artist shuffles by, weighed down
By the unbearable ache of wonder, a strip
Of cloud taints the perfect cerulean sky.
He looks up, raises a fist at nothing, 
Or at the golden yellow of ripening sun,
Then shouts in pain, Oh, de toute beauté!
Oh, oh! Dropping his easel, he plunks down
On the grass and covers his ears to still
The noise of swirling colors throbbing
Inside his head. Maybe he hears the wind 
Too closely, like ocean waves. Maybe
He sees the world only in swatches 
Of primary color. Maybe he cannot
Bear the weight of being trapped
In a summer on which shards of beauty 
Cut the soul, like sunlight grasped in a hand.
A piercing ache, red, like the color of his hair.

II. Chagall and Violin Music

It is always far off in the background
Of his dreams, away in the thin mist,
The sprightly, lucent lilt of a violin, often 
Accompanied by a furor, the thud of boots
Outside a door, then relentless knocking. 
The inevitable question in growly Russian, 
Are you a Jew? And he knows, it is that time.
Like his people before him, again, to wander, 
Such is his work, to escape to the sky 
Like a sparrow. You were always slipping away
From my grasp, my love
. He clings to the
Thin mist of dreams, like theater, where
Anyone can play the violin, goats, devils,
Green men, where anyone can fall in love
And marry their childhood sweethearts. 
We can kiss and make love in Russian, 
in Hebrew, and float away in a reverie
Of clouds
. In his dreams, even nightmares
are flourished with an airy violin concerto.

III. Amorsolo’s Figures and their Ankles

He might have been living in perpetual morning, 
The way he catches light. He might have kept
It in bottles and adds it to his paints; a shine
That caresses skin, illuminating like lamplight.
It enlarges his figures’ mirth, their hope, and it hurts
To watch them from this distance, from the future
Their ankles must be perfectly geometric and curved 
Like goddesses in their youth, hidden under long skirts
Locally weaved. To render such joy on the canvas is 
To restrain the sadnesses one keeps from unraveling,
From going awry. But he paints also to feed his progeny,
He must appease his women. He sits and ponders
The morning light, and thinks of bathers in the river,
Reapers in the fields. He must have never felt lonely.

IV. Cassatt on Children being Bathed

She understands the language of gestures
Rendered by women’s hands, their warmth,
Their ability to pamper away childhood hurt,
And if needed, their ways of withholding
That same warmth. She keeps children’s
Innocence with the bathwater, aglow in 
Pastel, soft amber of flesh, dress of pink and green. 
She does not want to cradle such smallness, 
Their smiles and dependence frighten her a little,
And even in knowing that it will not be long now,
In her impending blindness, she refuses to look 
More closely at the missed chances of holding 
A child and tenderly pouring warm water over its
Innocent, unsullied skin. Instead, she hurries
A sketch of the child’s mother, in her heart,
Content to be a witness to what she cannot be.


Ria Rebolledo
Ria Rebolledo
Born in Baguio City, Ria Rebolledo is a writer-editor for a university-based research journal in Benguet. She writes literary works in English and Ilokano.


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