Van Gogh’s combat fatigues

The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain
Tate Britain 2019

the man who isn’t
with anyone
stops alongside
different people

choosing them
over the paintings

he has birds
in his arms

and loose locks
of hair made from thought

there are small lives
within the frames of paintings
having candlelit dinners

and the last door
out of the exhibition
will begin to sound
like a trombone
taking leave
of someone

we hear the chatter
between airlocks
it’s news of a hundred
and two decades old

as the hours close
in on themselves
the trombone reflects
on Louis Armstrong
talking to Vincent

backend rain…
a pair of canvas boots
framed by the door

Alan Summers

16 thoughts on “Van Gogh’s combat fatigues”

  1. Reblogged this on Haikutec’s Weblog and commented:
    When I went to this Van Gogh exhibition, things happened beyond the paintings. It’s an extraordinary experience being with Van Gogh, because people are drawn there, as if he is a talisman, but we are never aware of the different ways he reaches out to all of us. But something changes, the air is charged, I witnessed people gathering courage for non-art related challenges, and somehow he helps, with, and beyond, the paintings themselves.

    Perhaps because he suffered so much from one lost love and somehow survived, despite being incredibly scarred. He gave everything back to another experience which somehow benefits others that he would never know.

    “Van Gogh’s combat fatigues” is about one very young woman going through great changes at a time of social uncertainity. She wore combat fatigues with Van Gogh art, and I think Vincent will stay with her.

    How I wrote about the paintings and the people past and present comes from two new exercises I’ve developed. I’m delighted that a big exhibition, in September, has invited myself and Karen (Call of the Page), and it will be about some of the art that had such a large impact on Vincent van Gogh. Intrigued?

    Alan Summers
    co-founder, Call of the Page

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Alan,

    I am always fascinated when I discover that another that is fascinated by the same things I am fascinated – in this case – Van Gogh’s art and life story and how is this world of his understood, translated by art lovers, poets.

    I myself have written recently a monostich inspired by Van Gogh’s black boots.

    I very much like your “backend rain…” ku. I like that you dared to use a regional seasonal reference! I find that seasonal reference/kigo strengthens haiku.

    Kind regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Reka,

      Thank you!

      As someone previously in a completely different type of activity, decades ago, the observation of footwear was extremely important for different reasons. That required observational discipline has certainly come useful in writing activities now.

      I hope to see your Van Gogh boots somewhere!

      Although Van Gogh only lived in three different places in England, and they were in the South East, with Ramsgate being one place, I felt the regional name for Autumnal rain, gave a flavor.

      many thanks again!


      Alan Summers
      Call of the Page


      1. Dear Alan,

        Some other lines that caught my attention and memorized them are:
        he has birds
        in his arms

        Deep inside these two lines an entire story is buried! One shall only dig for it.

        My “Van Gogh boots” monostich was published at Fresh Out: An Arts and Poetry Collective, an exclusively Facebook based journal.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Alan,
    So glad for your note on backend rain.
    Texas, our rain references would not find a poetic meter:
    Frog-stranglin’ tain
    gully-washer rain
    Van Gogh is an unfolding adventure of study through out my adult life.
    Recently, in an art-documentary I watched on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Vincent came up as a parallel to Caravaggio, as a potential victim of lead poisoning from the paints used at the time.
    Good wishes on the exhibition.
    Jan in Texas

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So sad that Jan has passed away. Thank you for your comment and like Reka, I love both of these!

      frog-stranglin’ rain
      gully-washer rain

      They definitely have poetic meter!

      warmest regards,


  4. I’m very thankful for this special walk through a Van Gogh exhibition and I’m pretty sure that the Master himself would be thrilled about your great lyrical sequence Alan! There are a lot of little gems included like

    – the man who isn’t
    with anyone


    – loose locks
    of hair made from thought

    and all the other points which the colleagues have already mentioned. LOVE !!

    warm regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I feel the new exercise I’ve developed is working then! Yes, Karen liked those parts, and she is extremely hard on my work.

      After watching a trailer for the Willem Dafoe film about Vincent van Gogh, I hope he appreciates how people are stunned by his work, and see his work as a touchstone for life in general.

      Thank you!!!

      warm regards,


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