You know how this goes,
Right? The morning is the mirror the sky died in
Yours and you know this is how contentment
And you know there’s another life out there you
You know how this feels: like she’s gone and she’s
On the stove. There’s no one, it turns out,
Of the milk and fix a half-decent latte. You carry
Damask spread when you stand. And when you turn
But you know what this feels like. Maybe
A day back inside the body of your work, and
Up at her and remember the sacred kingfisher
At his Zazen in the brushtrokes of the summer
Of the moon. What matters, wrote Vincent,
Like an infinite question, taut between heaven
Mark Tredinnick’s most recent book is The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir (UQP, 2009). His honours include the Newcastle and Blake Poetry Prizes. His first book of poems comes out this October. Find out more about him, his writing and teaching at marktredinnick.com.au
Tredinnick writes: “This poem came from the weather — physical and psychological — it describes. It sings the blues in serrated quatrains. Without a guitar, or for that matter, much of a voice.
It welled up from reading Vincent Van Gogh’s letters after looking and looking at his paintings, and those of some of his urbane and more level-headed contemporaries, in the post-impressionist show in Canberra.
Poetry speaks a language on the other side of hope. Van Gogh’s paintings, and his letters, speak it, too. That’s where this poem seemed to want to take me.
Something like the encounter with the empty mirror (at the end of the first part) happened to me when the poem was dreaming itself up, and I put it in the poem because it seemed to speak to the contingency of self, which is the poem’s theme, if it has one. But rereading my poem, that image reminds me of a haunting poem of Mark Strand’s, The Mirror, from Man and Camel, which I’d forgotten I’d read until I reread it the other day-one of Knopf’s April poem-a-day mailings. I didn’t mean to steal his mirror, and I hope that if Strand ever looks into my poem he won’t find himself looking back.
Mirroring runs through my poem, of course, start to finish. The beautiful unreliability of nearly everything; the fragility of meaning. Though it’s not a mirror image of the first part, you could read the second part of my poem as a falling into the mirror-back in time, down into Self, out into the world, which in the end looks back for itself in the poem and finds only the artist, failing again, perhaps failing better, looking back.
But I was thinking about none of that as I wrote. I was mostly trying not to fail the poem that seemed to want to come. All I had to work with was the title and the opening line, the form that insisted on itself, the weather, Vincent, my solitude, and the blues. Perhaps that, or something like it, is all there ever is.”
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