You’ve seen them in the deep sleep
of the season: figures sitting in a garden,
light on their faces as you enter.
Has it been years? It’s been years.
You lie in the light of morning, thinking
the heart is birds under a river, dark
as all the dresses you’ve never mended
of the ones you didn’t allow to love you.
And yet, Issa wrote, And yet.
And yet there is music in me: In the asylum
at Arles, Van Gogh wrote to his brother
the only words he could muster
for the fire that had overwhelmed his life.
And then he wandered out to remake the stars.
Look at the lindens casting their shadows
on the canvases. Look at you
looking at them, looking
at the wind, believing
someone will come back in a long
silk dress, her body like music
you once moved through.
Think of the sycamores
brushing against the panes
of the locked ward, the master turning away
to taste of his paint among the shadows.
Think of him holding
his body, knowing
what the wind might be, and that it isn’t.
I am in it, he wrote, with all my heart.
Let us close our eyes to the magnitude
and open them. Let us walk out
through the garden where our ghosts are
and stand awhile in the dark arms
of the cypresses, listening to them
as they ask us to outlast them.
The heart is built like horses
in the lemon groves, walking to us
through the tallest stalks at evening.
Look at them. They were wild,
once; they will stand.
They are burying their tremendous heads
in our chests again, whinnying
for the open road in foliage,
their woken shoulders rolling
in the moonlight—and proving, proving,
as the lost do, that immensity
will only dare to come to you
when surrender is ready in your hands.
Joseph Fasano is the author of three poetry collections, Vincent, Inheritance, and Fugue for Other Hands. He is a winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award and the Rattle Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. He teaches at Manhattanville College and Columbia University.