Not in Ourselves

     I.     Theo

Opening again the arrant
relief of the sown fields,
bread of affliction:
a restless brother burns
his way to harvest,
painting space as thing,
as woodcut furious,
flinders of fire and leaf,
heavy, sun-dense strokes, 
dark notes dealing
for fugitive effects;
a red brother working
petitions for more room, 
more light, aches of vision 
given the gleaning, its price:  
close the correspondence—
which love deserving silence
which brothers, being 
divided, unrelieved.

     II.     Gauguin

A sunburned man wants all the smoke.
Hot with other people’s fire
he hustles into the landscape—
priced and pricing,
stupid with passion— 
not a woman alive 

he has not cornered at a party, 
crossing the yellow space,
orange in arrangement, 
gleaning bodies, pressing 
the plucked flowers 
parched into the spine.

With subjects smarting,
russet and resistant 
before the sketch, the hands are thrown.  
Scrimmaging weak in borrowed air 

the artist affected excuses 
himself before the colors dry.
A trade wind only blows hot.
A cut man only paints with knives.

     III.     Roulin

The last dispatches arriving,

there was air in the parting.
Who has not wished 
for different lights—

a stronger, stranger sun?

A standing man huge
at his appointment

works; who has not
a southward sickness,
roaming addresses, 

setting out notes for all people,

country cakes for the rural 
gods? His post his song
his route his bricolage—

bouquet of beard sunblasted

man ranging local fields 
holds peace about the arms,

who would save words 
with stricken company,
sit for a friend.

       IV.       Jo

Dealing with broken men  
she wears her ministry

like hard lace—serious and fresh 
in union, in lonely suffrage living

braced, weight of the caretaker
without referent—good, unrevered, 

read up on the going looks she hustles
to convince convincing men—

their awful, distinctive calm dulling
a landscape to its uncrewed sop, 

ploughing doubts that choke the sower raw. 
But a sun-singed woman, knowing the work 

of the committed, works: pitching,
veering, steeled and steady, she tacks

into the bazaar, arranging the remains,
raking the light, opening the strokes, 

the correspondences, declaring what is,
is not for sale. The familial tones—

alone she wears them whole against the sun’s 
dividing heat, reclaims the fields, the harvest.

Photo by Tim Evans on Unsplash