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Van Gogh Broods over his Reaper in the Wheat Fields at St. Remy 

They have said it: I am insolent
because I confront the sun face to face. There it is:
I am a lunatic. The townspeople, none of them
my neighbors in Arles, declared me a “public menace.”
Let the madness convulse in me then.
Make me the visionary, the oracle. But heroism
or martyrdom—the devil take it. It’s idiotic for me
to begin to play a role.

I try to be cheerful, but my nerves are stripped
to their very roots. Difficult to understand.
When the storm clouds pass, I am upright
as a gorgeous day, steaming, arching. I drag the lovers out—
red with green, blue with orange, yellow with violet
—and I sound the vibration of their kindred tones.
My black flaming cypresses against the poppies’
vermilion.  The red pulsing ochre and coronal
green suns of a starry night.

The fields are ready for reaping.
I am thinking of a golden crown to the cinnamon
gold of the wheat. A flaring sapphire sun
to break these swirling yellow-greens
and violets. It’s a study in yellows: yellow dahlias,
yellow wheat, yellow like the aureole burst
of my sunflowers.

I’m thinking of a grim reaper with his scythe.
But I trace a smile on him instead; He is only doing what I do—
fighting like a devil in the heat,
fighting to the end of his task, gleaning the sweep
of mastered lives beneath a glorious sun.  In the distance,
I look out to the slope with its twisted rocks and broken
ivy-smothered trees. It is enough to make me dazed
from ecstasy. And here I am,
gazing out at a reaper in the field
through the iron bars of my cell.

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  • They have said it: I am insolent because I confront the sun face to face.


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