after Van Gogh
He is a change in barometric pressure, a clearing storm in strange light. He is
a missed warning, a settled resolve, a thousand-mile stare across the dinner table. He is a truck parked in a cornfield at dawn, an empty cubicle at work. He is the husband of a classmate, father of teen-agers. He is a childhood friend slicing through the crisp, dry, Colorado autumn wind into a flagstone canyon twenty-five stories below: the echoes of our adolescent laughter; the sound of the wing flaps of his demons carrying him off into the gloaming. He is a famous athlete, lonely inside, broken, down a trail in the woods away from the house, among the dappled shade made softer by his decision.
No one hears the reports, or maybe they do: the wife of a neighbor,
upstairs in their bedroom, jolted by the bluntness of the blast muffled
by mouth and lips, hard palette, back wall of skull. The grating silence
of gunpowder smoke swirling like grit through the air over the scene;
the sound of blood made free by the act, pouring out across the kitchen
floor, warm as him. The taste of iron in the stillness. The sharp, slow burn
of rust as the minutes pass slow as eons before the sirens arrive.
Some will speak of the economy, of marriage problems, of failure
or sickness, of dark secrets only the dead held close. They will speak
of subtle signs and actions, of odd shifts, of the day they missed
the calm resolution as he gave his things away.
The left-behind will not speak of the darkness that followed him to the place
where he stopped running. They will not speak of the gravity of crows,
startled from the trees at the edge of an empty field under gunmetal
clouds, scattering away into the distance—cold, black stars
punctuating the morning horizon like terrible ellipses.
Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, holds an M.F.A. in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. His work has been a finalist for the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, taken both third and first prizes in the Maryland Writers Association Poetry Prize, and won the 2016 Oberon Poetry Prize. Hohner’s work has been published individually in numerous journals, including Rattle: Poets Respond, Free State Review, and Crab Orchard Review. His book-length manuscript Thresholds will be published by Apprentice House Press in Fall 2018.
Detail of Sower at Sunset by Vincent van Gogh.