Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

The Starry Night (1889)

 

Who’s seen the mountains

doused by flame,

blanketed

 

with char and plaintive

burns, glowing?

The trees

 

blacker than roots six feet

deeper than

six feet?

 

Underneath, fear runs to

coagulant at the

first signs

 

of trouble. Threats stir full

pots til the kettle

calls itself

 

Syria. What’s the matter

with the sky?

There

 

are no five-pointed stars,

no eagles diving with

the sun,

 

only swirls of Van Gogh

children choking

on dotted

 

ash. Do you see the lines,

the lights, the strokes,

the wing

 

blades turning the bull-blue

night yellow and

white over

 

Damascus? Or do not those

dark limbs reaching

heavenward

 

resemble a burst of dust

rising up and over

this

 

magnificent city which in

an hour will know

little

 

except tomahawks? Tonight,

some have much more

to worry about

 

than the abstract moon high

on the edges of

painted

 

remains. They must offer to

Allah their last Isha

sung

 

in solemn tones of praise.

Behold: the terrible

missiles

 

eagerly droning, our bombs

descending like fallen

angels

 

to cave in roofs, rubble homes.

David Ahlman has Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from Utah Valley University (UVU) and has returned to UVU to pursue Education Licensure. When he is not in-class or placing puppies at PuppySpot, he spends his free-time reading and writing poetry, Netflix and Chilling, or playing fetch at the local dog park with his Husky (Atlas) and Aussie-Lab (Sirius).

“The first time I saw Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, I was forever changed. A third grader, I became paralyzed by its clashing colors, the railing sky, the calm of the city beneath its explosive chaos. Then, young and not yet certain of anything, I wished to paint something so vibrant and captivating. Time would prove I’d have to use words rather than brush strokes.

Fast forward twenty years, to my wife and I watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Cuddled on the couch, I turned to my right to observe the painting now printed and framed on my wall, and wondered if such a quiet place existed in Middle East nowadays. I then imagined Syria, those seeking refuge within America’s ever closing borders, those denied asylum out of bigotry and false claims of national security. I thought of war and politics and Van Gogh: how he had to remove his own ear to help people see, how he gave our eyes art so we may hear tears. Such was the inspiration of this poem and its motive, such leads me to believe we can no longer be blind or deaf to our brother’s and sister’s sufferings, wherever or whoever they may be.”