February 9, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION


Virginia Chase Sutton




The Starry Night

by Vincent Van Gogh



The artist peers through bars of his insane asylum

window, out into the beyond. It is dim. It is black

yet strangely lit by roiling stars as they circle, spirals


coiling and uncoiling. Perhaps it is Venus burning,

art scholars wonder, but he observes throbbing pulses

above and below him. The moon curdles in her dullness


ringed with fire. A lunatic sees many things from

his cell. Hospitalized, I watch meteors streak across

my vision as I shiver alone on a stone table after


bedtime medications fail me once again. I shudder

and breathe in the flash and sizzle of nighttime’s glare.

I think of mad Vincent, his poor ear sliced off, locked


away in his cell. He stares into a landscape above

the village, marked by one malignant tree and the twirling

sky. It is so odd, it might be dawn, the early hours when


those of us who have been locked away for our safety

rebel. Daylight is so ordinary for those in small town life

but in his search for solace, blackened skies blaze,


stars dazzle, spinning like our aching heads,

the brain may rewire away from magical thinking.

Vincent’s vision bumps against what he can


and cannot see. I spot spitting death-tails.

He discovers luminous circling beauties

cloaked outside his narrow view. Bereft, he writes


his brother that the painting is a failure. But he

is wrong. At evening’s conclusion, embers of starlight

are his masterpiece, rotating the sobbing night.





Phoenix Art Museum by Night Light



You measure, cut the padding, slice the carpet.

Use your blunted fingers to ease it into place,

powerful thigh muscles and knees flex to make

it fit. The museum, the largest in the Southwest,

is 285,000 square feet and you feel privileged


to be the one to take on this task. It is just you

and one guard traveling the galleries and halls

after the museum closes. You have the night

with art. Happily you work beneath Kahlo’s

El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale, the painting


donated by Clare Booth Luce in 1960, horrified

by the depiction of her friend who ended up

dead on the sidewalk in gory glory. And there

is Kahlo’s sometime husband, Diego Rivera,

across the gallery where you spend time gazing


at his work. Slowly you make your way around

the Thorne Rooms, dollhouse-like miniature

rooms from the 16th century to 1925, American

and European. There is a kneeler, like in some

churches, so you can see up close where one inch


equals one foot. It needs fresh carpet, so many

adults and children peering into the detailed

collections. And the Steele Gallery where

designer John Galanos’ works are featured now,

just a part of a 4,500 garment, shoes, and accessories


collection. This man dressed Grace Kelly,

the Duchess of Windsor, Marilyn Monroe. He who

once said “A black dress…reveals everything.

Nothing is off limits as you carpet your way around

the museum, taking in so much art to your art. You


are proud you were selected for this honor. I

respect your time, how you spend your minutes,

your hours, knowing the museum well myself,

and yet the enchantment when you are atop me,

our breath filling the room with so much heat the window


shatters. I understand, I understand. Your well-known

touch, the loving compliments whispering

in my ear. All around the museum you are in awe

as you are each time we meet, your hands

rough and thick-skinned, yet so gentle as you


send me to ecstasy, beyond reason and

any kind of self-control. O, you feel that way

with art—photographs, prints, paintings—

it is all there, just for you, on your knees,

almost alone in the middle of the night.






Virginia Chase Sutton

Sutton’s second book, What Brings You to Del Amo, won the Morse Poetry Prize. Her first book is Embellishments and her third is Of a Transient Nature. Her chapbook, Down River, was just released. Seven times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her poems have won the Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry at Bread Loaf and the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. Her poems appeared in Paris Review, Rise Up Review, and Peacock Journal, among many other publications, journals, and anthologies. She lives in Tempe, Arizona.

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