Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles

The upstairs room in the yellow house
across the street from the Roman arena
in Arles is almost as he painted it: bowl
and pitcher on a small table, two chairs,
a bed with yellow sheets and a red comforter,
the only difference a second small table
with a box for the artist’s brushes and palette.
For a few euros, you can enter this fiction.
The actual corner house that Vincent rented
from Widow Venissac in 1888 was hit
by an Allied bomb, blown into history.

But who can say what’s real? The same
Provençal sun warms this house as the one
where he wanted to fill his guest room
with paintings of sunflowers. “I want
to make it into a true artist’s house,” he wrote.
“Everything—from the chairs to the pictures—
should have character.” And if this character
is captured by designers who copied his room
here on a street where he must have walked,
perhaps this is now a true artist’s house too,
where one could go mad dreaming of sunflowers.

— Lucille Lang Day


From Dreaming of Sunflowers: Museum Poems,
first published in U.S. 1 Worksheets

Becoming an Ancestor

According to the dictionary, I’m not
an ancestor yet, only a grandparent
of a blond boy who clomps in his new sandals,
then throws me a ball strewn with black
stars and moons on a white background,
and a bow-legged baby girl with blue eyes,
all smiles today in her hooded carrier—
a child born the day my own grandfather
would have turned 130. He never knew
he had grandchildren, let alone great greats.

My own toddler days of warm cookies,
crayons and Betsy Wetsy dolls don’t seem
far away, but I am en route to becoming
an ancestor. Lucy and Ricky are dead.
Barbie is past fifty. Even the hippies
are history. When my grandchildren show
their grandchildren my photo in an old
album, I wonder what they’ll say.
That I swore like a trucker when I was hurt?
Blew like Vesuvius when I was mad?

They might recall I was always late, never
learned to knit or crochet, had brown hair,
couldn’t cook worth a damn but could carry
a tune, took poetry books everywhere,
liked to know birds and insects by name,
overreacted in both bad and good ways,
was unreasonably vain for someone my age,
had legs like a crane and liked to dance.

— Lucille Lang Day

From Becoming an Ancestor,
first published in