Letter to Vincent

by Jane Devin on 08/25/2011

Dear Vincent,

I’ve laid out a straw mat for the dogs so they can lie under the blue sky in comfort. I’ve filled a glass with ice & tea and set it near a tattered canvas chair. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in a morning that’s thick with promise and lean on execution. Everything, it seems, must wait. Clouds and dreams alike are in a holding pattern, at the ready to either part or darken.

My head is pounding today and, of course, that made me think of another year and another space, and then everything that followed in the year after that and the months since. . .

It still haunts me, Vincent—she still haunts me—and there’s not a person in the world that would ever understand that except you. That even as I do all the normal and expected things, there’s a piece of me that’s locked up tight, that’s ground down and shattered, and afraid of what might happen if I reach inside myself and pluck out the shards.

I comtemplate the ugliness from the corner of my eye, even as I draw my words in bright colors and paint layers and layers of warm comfort over cold memories. From the side of my mouth, I whisper to the god of encumberances and plead for lightness. I ask that I, with the elephantine memory, be allowed to forget. That one simple stroke of a brush would erase her and give me back the piece of myself that was capable of dreaming of someday-love, someday-belonging.

I sit outside and the sun shines brightly. My sentences are swollen with a confidence that’s borrowed from something outside of myself. I fear abandonment — the prospect of being left more alone than I am — and I fear, perhaps more than anything I’ve ever feared, being once again embraced, by anybody or anything, and then abruptly discarded. As you know, it is really not better to have loved and lost any more than it is better to birth a dream only so that you could feel it die.

It’s August 2011 and I am the potato eater of summer, Vincent. Dry skinned and dry lipped, hands rough and gray, skin and soul weathered by sun and storms

but by day I dream of yellow rooms
filled with sunflowers.

& at night I count the swirls
in a cobalt sky
& imagine myself a writer
lost in words & amber light

I walk through fields of flowers
to find the church where I might heal
(If I ever find it, I will, like you, leave off the gargoyles
& let the sun stream through cathedral windows).

I pick nests fallen from almond trees
and plant them on dusty sills
hoping that they’ll sustain me
through the tongue-tied silence
of a waiting season.

The dogs yawn and stretch. Sky blue threads unravel from a canvas chair. Ice melts and skin warms, but the heart, Vincent, this heart. . .

You know it’s still breaking, even in its sheltered hiding place.

I beg you to paint me something beautiful and not so out of reach.

Love Always,


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