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