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Winter 2005, vol 3 no 4


Consuming Light

Ken Jones


In the old madhouse
the softness
of Van Gogh's bed

Confined here at his own request, after he had threatened his friend Gauguin with a razor. "The gardens provide me with plenty of subject matter", he wrote to his beloved brother Theo. "However the landscape of Saint-Rémy is very attractive and I expect I shall gradually become acquainted with it."

I look out through the barred window. Yes, I know that view, of burning olive trees spiralling against a livid sky. And here, too, in his room.

Saturated yellow
the straw bottomed chair
consuming the light

Another of the painter's letters to Theo comes to mind. "The vineyards I have just painted are green, crimson, yellow, with violet bunches of grapes. What a symphony of precious colours!"

A whole bewitching afternoon to inhabit with all my senses paintings now so familiar we no longer see them.

On calendars and cards
the same dark cypresses
their acrid scent

In the end the sheer intensity of Van Gogh's reality became more than he could bear.

It is now a hundred and fifteen years since he took his life.

Ken Jones is a co-editor of the annual volume Contemporary Haibun, and of the journal Contemporary Haibun Online. He contributes regularly to UK haiku journals, as well as being represented in British and American anthologies. For his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O'Connor, he was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haikai, which funded a haibun lecture tour in Japan Publications include Arrow of Stones (British Haiku Society, 2002) and Stallion's Crag (Iron Press, 2003).

A Zen Buddhist practitioner and teacher of thirty years' standing, he has authored several books on socially engaged Buddhism. He now lives in Ceredigion, Wales, with his Irish wife, Noragh.