by Gail Peck

Monet’s have no wildness,
reveal no burden, and the red
patterned tablecloth they rest on

distracts.  Still, their intensity
of gold influenced van Gogh
who would often arrange

an even number in a vase
of simple pottery and place them
on a table.  He’d work quickly

in the morning light trying to finish
before the flowers wilted, yet
some appear as thistles.  He claimed

that while others painted peonies and hollyhocks—
Well, sunflowers are mine.
And writes Theo the white walls will be covered

in yellow for his visit.  Day breaking,
shears in hand, he’d walk the fields
and greet the stalks eye-level.

by Gail Peck

                                       after van Gogh, 1888

Of course the guest was given
the more decorative one
with curved arms and back, green seat
to mark his place with book and candle,
trusting it to stay upright.  Van Gogh would sit
in the simple straight-back, smoking his pipe,
often left empty there with a pouch of tobacco.
Nearby a box of bulbs,
Vincent written
across the front.  It is November now,
and sunflower paintings fill the walls
for Gauguin’s visit.  They’d have spirited conversations,
go out together, both painting the “Night Café,”
Gauguin homesick for warmer climate, and Vincent
torn, wanting him to stay, yet desiring him to have
the peace he needed.  Gauguin’s chest, left behind,
and every opening a reminder of the night
they quarreled.  Vincent would paint a self-portrait—
his bandaged ear, pipe between his lips, eyes focused
on nothing at all beneath a fur-lined cap,
standing inside the little yellow house that had tried
to contain the two of them.



Gail Peck is the author of three poetry chapbooks and three full-
length collections, most recently
Counting the Lost.  Her poems and
essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including
The Southern Review, Nimrod, Greensboro Review, Mississippi
, Rattle, Connotation Press, Brevity, Apple Valley Review,
Cave Wall.  

On “Sunflowers” and “Two Chairs”:
Both “Sunflowers” and “Two Chairs” are part of a manuscript
I’m currently working on about the work and lives of Claude
Monet and Vincent van Gogh.  The bulk of the poems are
ekphrastic, and I’ve done much research.  Aside from the many
books I’ve used as references I’ve visited numerous museums, and
traveled to Giverny where Monet lived, and the town where van
Gogh lived and died.  The challenge of writing about paintings is
how to make the work come alive.  For me, the best method is to
know as much as I can about the painter, their temperament, their
motivation—it is this I seek with each poem.  While I can never
know this exactly, it’s my job to come as close as possible to their
creative process.   

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 8, Number 1
(Spring 2013)

Copyright © 2013
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
Two Chairs