the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Martin Willets, Jr.

The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles

Based on the painting "The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles", by Van Gogh, 1888

"I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime" —Van Gogh, Letter #534

1.          "…an atmosphere like a devil's furnace" — Van Gogh, Letter #534

The brothels are open when men are most desperate.
This madness of late hours smells of sulphur.
Sloughed drinkers are a murder of crows
plotting over cut cards. The stench is perfume
flaring nostrils like bullets. Women voices
are in the lamps, are broken mattress springs
of delirium tremens. The atmosphere is ugly
arguments. A man waits at a pool table to ruin another.
A woman nuzzles secrets in an ear,
as her companion drinks in the information
like poison. The doorway is a gunshot to the temple.
Enter at your own risk. The bar serves bottles of insanity.

2.          Based on "Night Café" by Gauguin, 1888

When I finally arrive in Arles, he takes me to a lonely bar
anticipating I would find the same inspiration.
I do not know what he finds here except isolation.
This kind of low life is not for me.
It makes me uneasy as he does.
I like Madame Ginoux
filling the room, confiding
there could not be two men more unalike.
When he sees how I painted the same scene differently,
he is enraged as a jilted lover.

What have I gotten myself into?



Back to Poetry