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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Aesthetic Experience in Philly

for Marissa


Yesterday we rode
The bus to Philly
Seven dollars one way
Down the Jersey Turnpike
To see a Van Gogh show
That’s on display
In the Fine Art Museum

Dropped off behind
The 30th Street Station
We crossed the Schuykill
And walked alongside heavy traffic
Down the broad green expanse
Of the Ben Franklin Expressway
Towards the Museum’s
Massive eastern entrance

An approach
Not quite as grand
As we’d enjoy
In Paris or even DC
But grand enough
To create a sense of scale
And the importance
Of the occasion

And prompting our realization
That long before reaching Rome
All roads lead to Van Gogh
At least for us moderns

* * * * *

We entered and paid
And waited on line
For twenty minutes or so
Before elbow to elbow
With tourists and matrons
We pushed our way into
The main gallery
To re-experience Van Gogh

Hushed and expectant
Upon entering this temple
I lingered before
The first few canvases
A little bit dazed
By a sunflower study
And a muddy
Pair of boots
Wide eyed
In the presence of
These incredible relics

Then in the gallery ahead
I found you my dear wife standing
In front of another painting
Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies
Painted in Paris in 1887
And you turned to me and said
The funniest thing

I guess everyone
Has a bad day

And I looked again
And saw it was perfectly true
For the first time in my life
I was looking at
An ugly Van Gogh
Not an easy thing to do
After the bus ride and the walk
And coming all this way
But there it was
Plain as day
Kitschy as the flower
Prints that used to hang
In my grandmother’s kitchen

Not to denigrate
The roses and irises
And dandelions that
Enlivened the walls just ahead
But we can only do justice
To such great art
By seeing things
Including Van Gogh paintings
As they truly are
And not as we have been told
Or expect them to be

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