I crumple marriage offers made by fishermen,
masons, bakers of brioche, for I know
my consecration is to marry the
great Van Gogh. Look at history and see
men of genius wrecked before there is
the chance for one brave girl to swoop down, dangerous
to his enemies and doubters, the
critics and hecklers, and save him from that storm.
My love shall be his shield, prevent the terrible.
No shy virgin, I’ve seen four decades; they
have handled me the way some clumsy half-
cocked violin restorer does a never-
again-same harp. I know the score. I found
Vincent living with his mother in these
snake-filled backwoods, where gossips embroider the dangers
of his past romancing of a whore. Sufficient
to say I’m not scared off. Inside me, too,
there is a prostitute and a barkeep,
a seamstress and a siren and a shore.
In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh wrote about Margot Begemann, briefly his fiancée, “It’s a pity I didn’t meet her earlier—say 10 years ago or so. Now she gives me the impression of a Cremona violin that’s been spoiled in the past by bad bunglers of restorers.” He ended their relationship the same year it began. Margot drank poison but recovered.
This poem, first published in SWIMM, also appears in Jenna’s collection Manatee Lagoon; it is included here by permission of the author.
Jenna Le (jennalewriting.com) is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011), A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), an Elgin Awards Second Place winner, voted on by the international membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and Manatee Lagoon (Acre Books, 2022). Her poems appear in AGNI, Verse Daily, West Branch, and elsewhere. A daughter of Vietnamese refugees, she has a B.A. in mathematics and an M.D. and works as a physician and educator in New York City.
Kerry Lush is a photographer, designer, and stylist living in Queensland, Australia. Her work can be viewed on Facebook at Lush Creations https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066787272286 and on Instagram at hybrid_queen_photography.