The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Richard Jones

My bedroom as a small child


looked much like Van Gogh’s famous painting
and I took note of that
when I last visited the Art Institute.
I remembered I, too, had little in my room—
narrow wooden bed,
a picture of a tree on the wall,
pegs to hang my cap and coat.
Gazing at the spare blue chamber—
the simple chair, the table
with its wash basin and pitcher—
I thought of the countless other paintings
that poured forth from Van Gogh’s restless vision—
the irises and wheat fields,
the muddy boots, cottages, fishing boats,
cypresses, stars, and crows.
He painted “The Bedroom”
while in the asylum at Saint-Remy,
where perhaps he first pondered
shooting himself in the heart.
The day of my visit to the gallery,
a young girl—
Japanese, punkish, wearing jeans and pink sneakers—
stood at an easel and canvas
and dreamily copied the master,
brush stroke by tortured brush stroke.
After thinking it through
I lightly tapped her on the shoulder;
she undid her ear-buds and looked at me.
I begged her pardon and said,
“Van Gogh’s bedroom,”
pointing first to the master
and then to the copy on her easel,
“looks just like my bedroom did as a child.”
She smiled at me.
Did her smile nearly give me the courage
to put my hands together in prayer
and ask if she could find it in her heart
to let me buy her painting
and take it home?
Her painting seemed finished,
but the girl hesitated,
her brush poised with a touch of yellow,
the color of joy.
She quickly studied my face
then turned back to the room’s window,
the blue doors,
the narrow bed’s heavy wooden posts.
I imagined sitting across from her at a table,
holding those paint-stained hands
and looking into her eyes, the color of night.
I wondered if she knew
the artist painted three versions of his bedroom
or if I should tell her
that the mere thought of my own childhood room
breaks my heart
so terrible and wonderful it was to be a boy.
But when she turned back to her painting
the irreplaceable moment had closed like a door
and though I can’t remember exactly how it happened
I think I quietly faded away in the crowded gallery,
an encounter the girl had only imagined.
At any rate, if she did turn again
to see the tears in my eyes,
I was already gone.



Richard Jones



Let’s rest by the lake.
Let’s sit by the water’s edge together.
Let’s sit quietly, at peace.
Let’s rest in the silence.
Let’s note the mirror stillness of the lake.
Let’s note the splendor of heaven.
Let’s remember love.
Let’s lie down in the grass.
Let’s want for nothing.
Let’s shine as brightly as the shining sun.
Let’s be beautiful. Let’s be beautiful together.
Let’s speak with pure tongues.
Let’s comfort one another.
Let’s believe once again in goodness and mercy.




RICHARD JONES is the author of seven books from Copper Canyon Press, including The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning. Editor of Poetry East and its many anthologies, including Paris, Origins, and Bliss, he also edits the free worldwide poetry app, "The Poet's Almanac." A new book, Pilgrim on Earth, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2018.



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