Having pawned his watch & overcoat,
he stands in a shabby corduroy suit
painting a muted-grey seascape—
while his wife runs a hat shop.
He has no money.
He buys Cezanne’s Three Bathers.
He had been a dreamy child,
a clerk in a lawyer’s office.
From the moment I held the box of colors
in my hand, I knew this was my life
Under the Corsican sun, he is drawn to
the purity of light & color the way
the sun glitters on the leaves.
The humiliating return to Bohain
to grey skies & squelchy rotting beets
to gaunt men looking for work
their stringy children
to a father who blustered—
You are an imbecile.
I think: how we all hang back, when we are afraid
as I look at his paintings,
as they move toward the light—
toward the open window
the burning foothills
a blaze of orange & ochre.
He gives himself to the figs & date palms,
pomegranates & oranges,
the glittering choppy sea, scudding clouds,
the ferocious & clamorous sun.
The butcher & baker stand
with hands outstretched—
he destroys the still lifes
his wife & daughter
have to scrape the paint from the canvas
as there is no money for—
A leap into another world—
The colors become sticks of dynamite.
Nights without sleep
he breaks with everything.
He admits it: he is afraid
that the blazing colors
will make him blind