on Van Gogh

Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
(teal and prussian-blue)

Father scuffled with the taste of saltpetre still sticking unstintingly to his tongue, and the lustre of a candle which, already nearly drowned by its own wax, sobbed intermittently, enervating his eyes. Here, an horizon. There, an horizon; tessellating the sides of a glass as the canary-green flood subsided, in altisonant tongues of water slapping the hull, in the two very-white blocks of light bounced from each iris — those transient lovers becoming one united streak whenever the source was richest — and seemingly everywhere: an horizon, wide as widest be, grand as grandest they come, and if I were to stop, then, centred in such a massive mouth of sky and water, and closed my eyes and braced to be swallowed, perhaps then, in that will-never-be-moment, as in Ammons’ Admission, I could have «broken away from the final room». Little is imaginable then, as my eyes pierced the very fabric of nothingness; reached a hidden point beyond the sea-line, and my mind, obliquitous as if dragged by a long velveteen rope, would think of «La Damoiselle élue», which was being so candidly played that night by one such neglected lounge pianist; a lounge so far enclaved at the very tip of the bow, it felt as if it fluttered atop the ocean and never grazed it, never gashed the sea with that effusive separation of bloods and bodies so characteristic of vessels as massive as that one was.

Father disliked crowds; they scrambled his brain. After years of successive neurasthenias and depressions, his thoughts trailed off celeritously, plumes of smoke to be blown one on top of another, some expired upwards or downwards, infusing another parcel or topic with a distinct scent of petrichor after a wildfire; others would be expired right ahead, one after one, each large brunt of smoke puncturing the other as they coalesced in some hallowed destructive waltz, the kind Limón would have liked. As I fluttered off, imagining which unfathomable, implacable beauty hid itself beneath a secret point in a realm with the single material of horizon, so did father, who, himself looking at his own abstract subterfuge, would express all manners of disgust at how the space of the lounge was designed; the golden-corinthian crowns which stood in precise dissonance to the garish teal wallpaper mottled with crested parsley; the disposition of the oblong seats, prussian-hued, which mooned around the room in such odd, aleatory ways. “How ugly it all is“, he repeated, “a brass foot-rest with zebrano counters!, vulgar, criminal!“, in an infinite punctuation of repulse that, as the taste of saltpetre, would cling and stack and grow until the thought just trailed off, perhaps fallen into the unwounded sea. As so, we’d spend every night in that cruise, and after he had his third canary-green spirit, he would allow me to stand, silentious, behind the pianist, studying the score. Playing The Blessed Damsel now reminds me of gold and teal, acanthus and parsley, smoke and brass; ugliness, infinitude; a cold and hungry horizon which, in the dullness of magnetism, wholly lacks any compassion.


João-Maria