Thursday, 30 August 2012

Child Lost, Child Near

By Julie Hinton Walker

Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
"Self Portrait", 1887
Oil on artist's board, 41 x 32.5cm

A country road leads to Zundert; the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh.  Twice, it seems…
     On the 30th day of March, 1852, a new and hopeful mother gave birth.  Something went terribly wrong.  A grave became the baby’s cradle as the new mother sat next to an empty one by her bed.  This infant boy never took a breath.  He neither opened his eyes nor felt the comfort and gentle hands of his mother.  His mother named him Vincent van Gogh.
     Such emptiness; how alone this new mother felt as life resumed to normal around her.  She was left with idle arms and a grave at the red-brick church five doors down.  Her husband was the preacher at this church.  She prepared lunch for him daily walking by the graveyard twice on her journey, never forgetting.
     On the 30th day of March, 1853, one year later to the day, a tiny baby boy was brought into this world and snuggled into the same arms of this anxious, yet loving mother.  She welcomed this child.  The pain of the previous year was not forgotten, but she would seek a sense of numbness in the activity this baby would bring to her life.  She named him Vincent van Gogh…
     When old enough, Vincent was responsible for certain day to day chores.  One of them was to deliver lunch to his father at the red-brick church five doors down.  He found a bit of adventure by going through the graveyard to and from his destination.  One day, he stumbled upon a headstone.  He read his own name.  He saw his birth day dug into the stone.  “Is this me?  Is this mine?” he thought.  “Is everyone born with their grave already marked and waiting?”  Death loomed large for this young boy; this boy born twice.

Vincent van Gogh
"Pieta", 1889
Oil on canvas, 73 x 60cm

My Mama, it is Vincent.  It’s me.
Lift your heavy head from a cradle of idle hands.
Down-cast eyes turn to see.
Immersed, your son stands before you in a deep pool of tears.
Remembrances; each drop you wept out of fear.
From Earth’s dark stone-cold grip be released.
With one child lost, see one child near.
My Mama, why am I more alive to you now deceased?
Perhaps, time has neither rendered raw nerves numb, nor open wounds scarred.
Cast adrift in black water, no healing will you glean drenched in wept tears.
Find darkness and bones where once a baby boy lay swathed.
I no longer dwell in this place of your fear.
So then, for whom is it you sob?
The watery image you watch over is a memory held fierce.
Mama, weep no more for the child lost.
Reach for me, your child near.

A mother’s love I have known.
Cold you stare…a vessel empty; incomplete.
A keeper of dark memory; alone.
Our lives lay entwined; rooted in this hungry earth at our feet.
You claw the dirt coffin.
Your nails cracked and blackened with a task so bleak.
Warmth and protection you offer.
In return, pain gives you feeling for which you seek.

Pulled from that grave,
You scream!  Yes, Mama, scream my name!
Rejoice!  It is me standing before you this day.
Why seek false comfort in love so misplaced?
Hear my voice sing; let past screams away fade.
No longer allow earth to leech life from your body.
If it is guilt – you have paid.  Be not this tomb’s marker.
A future holds no place for a martyr.
This young boy yearns for his mother’s smile;
For the touch of your gentle hand.
Remember how you held me that first little while?
A second chance this day does grant.
My heart, hear it pounding.
It beats for time lost and time yet to pass
Look into my eyes.
The reflection of your beautiful smile is all I ask.

Never will words be enough.
I am a painter.
My painted world holds beauty revealed.
Lost words spoken and meanings grow paler
Mama, for you, I paint to be healed.
I will show you colours fresh as wind whips them into glorious meringue.
See my brush, it is the wind.
Each canvas a stepping stone; a journey began.

Wondrous joy that brief moment you held me swathed;
That frail little creature slipping out of light.
Struggling against my last breath, I felt your touch dissolve.
You needed to know I would return when the time right.
It was never your fault.
Damage done, a second time in your arms, in your sight;
Numbed by past grief, the weight of me seemed never enough.
How do I bring you back to erase what was lost?
What may I gift?
I gift not my eyes for they bear witness to light’s colour.
I gift not my hands for they do guide.
No, instead, my ear….
With my ear, hear the song of birds, the laughter of happier times and the sunlight crystallize.
With the colours of the sun, a garden I’ll tend.
Be gone the sound of tears fallen from your beautiful eyes.
Let me paint you flowers rising up out of the depths.
This child near will paint until you smile and recognize.

I am a painter.
Come with me and see.
I live so you may, my Dear.
Peace and solace your mantra.
My Mama, forever one child lost.
Once more, feel one child near.
I am your Vincent.
Walk with me.  I am yours.