Dreams Unknotted

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
–Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, 1888

In wavy lines and shimmering spots,
his knotted thoughts, unspooled

the counted crows, a postman, impasto
flowers’ golden glow–

but most of all the stars, not stilled,
the night a colored motion sea–

ripples of what he saw–and dreams of what might be

A quadrille for dVerse, where Mish asked us to use the word “knot.” I read this article today about how after van Gogh’s death, the sale of his paintings—then valuable—paid for his sister Willemien’s care in a mental asylum. I suppose it helped her, but I also felt it was so tragic that she spent decades—almost forty years–there.

81 thoughts on “Dreams Unknotted

  1. I read that article too, Merril, and love the van Gogh quote you’ve paired with your ekphrastic quadrille, which unspools beautifully. I love that you started with the ‘wavy lines and shimmering spots’ and ended with ripples.

  2. Oh, this is lovely, Merril. I really enjoyed your use of rhyme and you really catch the movement of paint in van Gogh’s painting. My husband just completed a 1000 piece jigsaw of his Irises – hellish to do, but it did force you to really look at the brush work and see how he layered up paint.

  3. This is so beautiful. You really catch the painting. I especially fell for “his knotted thoughts, unspooled”. 💖

    Will have to read that article to.

  4. Beautiful rhythm, rhyme and imagery….wow, Merril, I really like this. Its so sad that he was never able to calm the tumultuous seas in his mind and that his sister suffered so deeply as well. Mental health is not addressed properly now. I can’t imagine it back then.

  5. I’ve just been looking at Van Gogh’s paintings and this one in particular stood out for me. So much sorrow in his family, but what a gift he left for us. (K)

  6. I love the poem. I’ve been a fan of Van Gogh’s paintings from way, way back. I also appreciate the historical context you’ve provided. I didn’t know that Van Gogh had a mentally ill sister.

    • Thank you very much, Liz. I didn’t know about his sister either before I read the article.
      We’re planning to go to one of those immersive van Gogh shows late in the summer.

      • I know what you mean. I have not been inside anyplace except for doctors and dentist. I don’t think I will feel comfortable being in a small indoor place like a restaurant for a long time, or sitting masked in a theater. This is not until August, and I’m getting my second vaccine this week, so we’ll see. I don’t know the location yet. I told my husband I might be comfortable going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art after we’re both vaccinated–for a short visit. It’s very large with lots of open space.

  7. Mental health issues ran through that whole family, amazing responses. I particularly enjoyed your take on the prompt, especially the unspooled – unravelling of the mind, for me a felt response.

  8. Crazy, I was never swung out about this painting to look at it, but then again I find it emotionally inspiring.
    You wrote a perfect poem!
    40 years in an asylum…back then? TRAGIC!

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