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Van Gogh, “Stairway At Auvers”

ISSUE:  Spring 1986
Up, up the gold staircase the sun has run and faced
this goodman with a cane bent to his slow descent.
Then let him pass. So goes the sun’s privilege,
to look on everything and take in nothing.

Here on earth the celebrants go forward two by two,
four ordinary women bowed in hope of an ascent.
And floating on the white billows lifting their common
the dirt before them widens, the dirt glints gold, glints

In dresses so billowing the bodies hide, untouched,
these ladies keep yearning wordless under their hats,
backs to us. And forever they will not show their common
nor ever cease approaching the old man.

Of course, he is nothing. The stair is all to them.
If they could touch it, rub its gold down into their own,
lay that honeycombed coil against their skin, the pollen
if they could remain as on this morning, setting out,

hoping to climb, to clamber, fall and scale—
if, if. What we see is a riddle on three stiff legs
descending, a face time has brought down
to one jagged line falling some other way.

This is how desire, evening and morning, crosses the body.


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