What Hope Looks Like

"Longing to Be Seen" published in The Journal of Radical Wonder

by rosemerryt@gmail.com

How does hope influence our lives? I think about how Vincent van Gogh put so much hope into the home where he planned to live and paint with Paul Gaugin, and I love the art that was made in these hope-rich days before the visit went sour. That’s the theme of this ekphrastic poem, “Longing to Be Seen,” in which I imagine Vincent thought Gaugin might really see his talent, might really see him. It was published in The Journal of Radical Wonder.

after the painting “The Bedroom” by Vincent van Gogh (Arles, October 1888, oil on canvas, 72.4 cm x 91.3 cm, non-commercial use courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)) and the piano composition “Yellow Bed” by Kayleen Asbo

In the tilted room with the yellow bed,
hope waltzes on the wooden floor —
one, two, three, one, two, three —

not that you see it there,
it’s not obvious like the windows,
the paintings, the mirror, the pitcher, the chairs.

Hope is what you don’t see.
But it is there, beside the water glasses,
beside the long towel.

Hope sways so keenly
to snatches of melody
the whole room seems to sway.

And it’s one, two, three,
one, two, three; Who, hope says,
will dance with me? It promises

friendship. It promises rest.
Will you dance? it asks, a dizzy mess.
It promises community. It promises fame.

Will you dance? it asks, but it smells
of paint and faraway dreams.
It smells of madness and longing to be seen.

Will you dance? it says, its arms flung out.
Here is where Vincent said yes.
Some see a still life, but others see

the whirling, the twirling, the beautiful
spinning of hope, reeling hope,
fragile hope