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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Landscape in France

I look again at Gauguin’s painting 
as my colorblind father might have
before he died, after sailing home
from the war in France : he sees some
of the yellow in those farms on the horizon,
and some of the blue in that small pond
any cow might drink from, but for him
every red and green is gone. Those grasses,
trees, and hills, and those patches of clay–
all a beige waste under skies too pale
for rainbows. And the one face, nearly hidden,
of the painting’s only figure, seems
bloodless to my father’s way of seeing,
camouflaged by that same grey ground
peasants put their spades to — death
that Gauguin, sunstruck on his island,
thought he could leave behind.
This poem was inspired by images on a website about colorblindness : two reproductions of the painting Landscape at Pouldu by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). One reproduction presents the painting as a normal-sighted viewer sees it ; another reproduction presents the painting as a colorblind viewer sees it. This poem is one in a suite of four poems I wrote about colorblindness.
This poem benefited from the feedback of members of Thomas Lux’s workshop at the 2009 Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Thanks to Linda A. of that workshop for suggesting the word “horizon.”
My goal when composing any poem is to craft a passage of spoken language in which the sound is at least as alluring as the sense. For details, see the comment box beneath this blog entry.
This poem is more fact than fiction. For details, see the comment box beneath this blog entry.
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