Starry Night Over the Rhone

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
First Place, September 2016
Judged by Lee Nash


Theo, yellow stars bloom like fireworks,
and the waters glimmer with russet-gold.

On a mauve ground in the lower corner
a couple strolls, arms linked together.

The red bearded man under the straw hat
could be me, one day,

but for now I remain the stray dog
of my neighborhood.

Gauguin has fled to Paris–
and my neighbors want me committed.

The assholes claim to the police
that I’m a pervert,

but I must not get worked up,
indignant, or I may find myself

locked up again, judged
as a madman.

Already the cowards have signed
a petition that threatens

my freedom. Theo,
don’t get mixed up in this.

I must stay calm, but painting
would help. If you can, please send

along ten meters of canvas
and tubes of paint: zinc white,

ultramarine, cobalt, orange lead
and Veronese green.


I'm always drawn to a poem where the poet takes the voice of a famous individual and by way of the imagination gives us new appreciation for that person and their struggles. Here we have a troubled Vincent van Gogh writing to his art dealer brother, Theo – the tone is conversational and the language colorful in more ways than one, and the result is altogether convincing. --Lee Nash

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