When Van Gogh’s lobe fell pinna up
on the tiles, its face a shrivelled funnel
like a floor’s ear listening to the universe,
and deftly he traded razor for brush,
he painted potato-eaters. Which gave him
ideas for the outline of two cut sunflowers
on a blue table in the moonlight, the pain
suddenly abated, the whirring heart mute.
That’s how artists are, pondering one thing
and birthing another. He splashed colour
and painted the afternoon away, knowing
without question the direction to take.
How could he not, when he was planning
such a starry night over the Rhone?
Besides, answers now grew in him, tubers
of earth reaching into his fingertips
as he painted: blood-soaked oaks to forest,
to meerkats waiting for the end, to August
when dust rises to meet the newly dead.
If one answer is to be given, why did god
promise my father the kingdom of heaven,
then imprison him and give me his amulet
to wear on my neck? No spirit ought to dim,
for neither heaven nor hell can contain him.
For Namanyana, 1931-2010