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What! Not another Van Gogh self-portrait!
Must be a late one, missing the left ear.
As always, he crowds the canvas, as if
daring us to back away. The same gaunt gaze,
same tawny blaze of hair, though he's
let it go to seed.
In other ways
he's mellowed: The flaring eyes don't
engage ours, I suspect because he doesn't
find us interesting. He seems to peer
at a work in progress, seeing ways to see.
Instead of surrounding a color-pocked face
with palpably grained concentric halos
of air, as if he were the eye or maw
of a voracious electronic vortex, our world
in process of being engulfed by him--
here, instead, we see a well-fed, mature artist
loosing coarse ropes of flamey color to random
breezes (brush strokes every which way, knowing
none dare call it campy) in a world of quiet
Yes, this must be a later tougher
serener Vincent, melancholy, but self-assured,
appearing mild and tame, but merely careless,
afloat on a jungle of sunlight, no longer haunted
by any yellow demons more violent than himself,
no dark things living but fear meeting
in the darkness, him.
He must have survived mere flesh wounds,
fled, like Rimbaud, to Africa, lived
to paint again, if not a self portrait,
surely the portrait of a self.
October 6, 2002