Natural Disturbance

starry night2


“It is life’s work to recognize the mystery of the obvious.”

– Jim Harrison


The artist paints the night he sees
through the window of his chamber.

Cobalt on the brush,
vibrations he strokes
onto the canvas –
he senses them.
His mind delivers
red spot confluences
that pulse through
him into his painting.
Luminance imprints
his psyche; his vision
is one of scaling –
mathematical improbabilities.

Zinc yellow, then
cadmium to the pulsing
stars that vibrate and gyre
in his torment’s eye.

Tonight Vincent represents
the agitation of the light he paints.

With wakes, eddies he brushes
to life on the sky, he is recording
scales of motion eyes cannot see
and will not computate, possibly
ever – beautiful the forms
of turbulent spins, swirls.

Or only the vorticity of an inclement mind.


* * *

Vincent Van Gogh’s connection to turbulence.

Day 28 of Jilly’s “28 Days of Unreason.”

I want to thank Jilly for originating this challenge two years ago!  Jim Harrison’s poetry is not for everybody — it’s for those who see the poetic in the natural world, in the trials of life, and at the edge of insanity.  I have grown as a writer and a poet through my interaction with these prompts.  Thank you, Miss Jill!  It’s been a wonderful trip.

Posted at dVerse, Open Link Night.

“We all know that Art is not truth.
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth,
at least the truth that is given us to understand.
The artist must know the manner whereby
to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

― Pablo Picasso


67 thoughts on “Natural Disturbance

  1. That opening line sets this all up – the night he sees. We have to wonder if what he saw was what he painted with his inclement mind. Did he see something that we are only just beginning to understand through mathematical theory; through turbulence theory? Great how you used artist’s color in the middle part, Charley. Whole poem expands and makes my head a place of turbulent thoughts.


  2. When I took my first writer’s workshop through UCLA after years of teaching writing but not writing myself, one of the first poems we were assigned was to write a poem based on one of Van Gough’s paintings. I haven’t seen it for over thirty years. Wonder if I could find it? It’s fun wandering through an artist’s supposed mind only going my clues in his/her paintings, isn’t it? Enjoyed your wanderings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is so much in this poem – extremely well crafted. This: “Luminance imprints his psyche; his vision is one of scaling – mathematical improbabilities.” The realization that he may have, through mental illness, been able to see – actually SEE- turbulence is astounding.
    Your word choices really drive that home with such strong verbs. As I recall, you had another masterpiece of a poem that involved a great artist. A niche?


    • Perhaps a niche…! Yes, the thing about this particular painting… and I believe one other of his… is that he was in a state where the shapes he painted… ah, well, it’s all on the link and the video. I’m glad you came and read my poem!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting! You have educated me on the mysteries of the simple things. The video makes sense and it appears he was simply painting what his mind actually saw…
    Great post!


  5. I think it’s interesting the way “artists” and “scientists” alike find inspiration, raison d’etre, understanding, compassion, and identify with the works of Van Gogh. It wasn’t true at first but it has been true since World War II which itself put chaos into understanding, and explicated disarray as art. I like the way you unfold the layers of “Starry Night”. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It is gripping.


    • My source material started out in psychology, where the talk was of Van Gogh experiencing disturbances – as many patients have. The on to physics…. It really was fascinating reading that made a favorite painting come into bright focus. He wasn’t just painting from his illness, he was painting atmospheric phenomina!


  6. Such a reflective response and affirming the brain’s brilliance (or discord), afffecting our perspective and the way we relate with the world ~ The last stanza and line, was great finish to your work ~


  7. Charley, you’ve educated me on the mystery of movement, fluid and light…from Van Gogh’s perspective. I had no idea about the mathematical relation. I shall look at Starry Night again with fresh eyes. A beautiful write!


  8. Thanks for sharing the video – it provided a context to the verse at large. And such fluid writing as well – the colors are enriching, and the luminance comes alive through the words. An enjoyable read, which also provided an introduction to something really interesting.


  9. I like the how the opening (“The artist paints the night he sees / through the window of his chamber” at first is literal, but of course we need to open our own eyes as to our chambers, and what we can see from them and bring back as artists, writers, human beings.


    • I had almost changed chamber to cell. Sometimes, in my madness of writing, I too begin to sense the vibes around me and choose the proper word. Sometimes not! Thank you for your inciteful reading, Randall!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love Van Gogh’s artwork. You captured his process well in your poem. Thanks for sharing the video, too. I found it fascinating. Have you ever seen the Dr. Who episode with Van Gogh? Even if you’re not a Dr. Who fan, you should check it out. The depiction of the artist is wonderful.


  11. I think you know I’m a fan of van Gogh, Charley, so I think you know how much I love this poem. The way you have used colour, in a similar way to the artist, to paint the scene as he would see it from his window, in vibrations and senses, is inspired. I especially enjoyed the lines:
    ‘Zinc yellow, then
    cadmium to the pulsing
    stars that vibrate and gyre
    in his torment’s eye


    • I’ve always admired Van Gogh’s work. The science that came to fore about certain emotional instabilities allowing patients to actually sense turbulence… with Starry Night and one other of Van Gogh’s paintings displaying definitive evidence… is what brought this poem out of me. They were painted in his times of “disturbance.” They are beautiful in a way the rest aren’t (they are beautiful also, just not in the same way). I’m so glad you enjoyed this poem!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful ekphrastic Charley, VVG is all about the color, And you take the ideas about the art and make them visual, great tribute. I think he was not so much about painting what he saw, but more about painting how he felt about what we saw, interest how you connected “inclement weather “ to “inclement mind” both invisible except through their respective effects, both magnificent and sad. Truly it is perhaps true that this world was never made for one as beautiful as Vincent. I like how you point out he is painting life onto the sky.. especially interesting if we are but a peculiar manifestation of the universe having become aware of itself.
    AND — I am loving “Picture This” by Heller. Thanks for the tip!! I hear the voice of Alcobiades’ dialogue with Socrates as if it were Trump’s voice – eerily topical – “make Athens great again”. 🤔. Be well, Lona


  13. Sorry for my postponed reading. Great quotes from Harrison and Picasso; fascinating (and poetically done) appreciation of Old Vinny’s “mathematical improbabilities”. What a feast.


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