a bullet in his chest,
van gogh tells his brother,
la tristesse durera toujours.
the sadness will last forever.
it takes him two days to die.
we become clumsy with pain.
we succumb to terror, anger, broken hearts.
revolver wounds or no—
across two days or slowly rotting across years—
our ribcages cave in.
we cannot fathom a way out.
we claw at our faces, at the air.
we take to our beds.
we mourn like animals.
in one of his last letters to his sister,
van gogh tells her, “i seek to find an expression
for the desperately swift passing away of things.”
& yet he—.
& yet nobody—
when sunk neck-high in sorrow
like a bitter snowbank
can fathom that it, too,
will swiftly pass away.
the day van gogh is buried,
his friend writes, the sun is “terribly hot outside”
& the artist’s beloved sunflowers are everywhere,
turning their faces toward the light.