The Red Kerchief,
Portrait of Madame Monet
by Gail Peck

                          after Monet, 1873

How long, how long
in the cold, her body fractured
by the window pane.

Put down your brush,
unlatch the French doors
and take her hand.

The red cape isn’t warm enough, nor
the fur-lined coat.  An umbrella
to keep the snow from her face.

Surely her feet are frozen.
Yet how she longs
to please you

time and time again.
You’d painted the doorway,
and those sheer curtains pulled back

before you sent her outside.
You almost have the green
of hemlocks right, touches of snow

on the branches.
She does realize this is your livelihood,
and takes pride in her numerous poses.

How jealous she’d be to have
another woman in her place.
And after each child, a tightening of the corset.

by Gail Peck

Up the stairs to the small room
at the Auberge Ravoux where he died.
No paintings of sunflowers on the wall,
like in the Yellow House,
and not actually his bed.  He’d taken
the room for its cost.  After all,
he spent time in the fields,
walking and walking, working up
an appetite for food he couldn’t afford,
and at times stealing napkins from the café
to paint on.  Once, for lack of money
from one Monday to Thursday he wrote Theo
he’d had twenty-three cups of coffee
and only bread that he still had to pay for.
Crazy is what the villagers
called him, and he agreed he was not
altogether sane but he was working—
vast sketches of corn under troubled skies.

It was fine to sit on the reed-bottomed chair
for hours, painting, writing, reading
Balzac and the Bible.  All the promises
he made to himself—
bad wine or bad alcohol,
diluting the absinthe with water.
As he was dying he lay smoking a pipe
in that room with the one window,
and the floor that squeaked when he walked across it.


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
The Southern Review, Nimrod, Greensboro Review,
Connotation Press, and Brevity.  Her essay “Child Waiting,”
which appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the
Apple Valley
, was cited as “Notable” in The Best American Essays
.  Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

On “The Red Kerchief, Portrait of Madam Monet” and “Van
Gogh’s Room”:
Both “The Red Kerchief, Portrait of Madam Monet” and
“Van Gogh’s Room” are part of a manuscript I’m currently
working on about the 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 travelled to
Giverny where Monet lived, and to the town where Van
Gogh died.  It was there I saw the small room where he
passed away.  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 painters,
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.     

Previous page  Apple Valley Review, Spring 2014  Next Page
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 9, Number 1
(Spring 2014)

Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
Van Gogh’s Room