Cafre Terrace at Night

by | Nov 11, 2020 | November 2020 Writing | 7 comments

The painter remains removed from scene, too far away to make out love or gender; far enough away only the orange glow of a bustling cafe at night seems sure—sure enough to make the sky almost blue and the cobblestone violet and green—the way oil might play with light and everything improves in the evening light of a cafe. He paints at night to be sure of night, to let the shadows and light play games with him. They do. If someone loved him enough, they might make him step forward but he remains alone, framing from the dark. He is not mad but  madness is coming around the corner as clear as the hooves of carriage horses and a gun gone off, far off, offstage. Tonight he is beautiful. Hair wild with the most brilliant orange paint on his fingers. Cast in the black sky he refuses to paint black. His eyes still electric. He paints his scene as if blurred by tears.

All genius on the edge of a fall
defining everything bright
and what little good.

7 Comments

  1. David O'Connor

    Rogan, some great awareness of light. I can almost see the painting. I love the line, He is not mad but madness is coming around the corner as clear as the hooves of carriage horses and a gun gone off, far off, offstage” Cool switch from limited to omnipresent. A couple of questions: do you need the last three lines? Is it worth giving the “he” a name? What a great, clear, fine, prose poem. Thanks!

  2. Corey Holzman

    This was so crisply vivid. But it felt a little cramped. I feel if you spaced it out, it’d give each scene a bit of space, and let it resonate a little more. Also, the last three lines feel a little out of place. I like them, but it’s a removed perspective. And I guess that’s indicated by the different formatting. Spacing might fix that? But, the imagery and descriptions of light and color, wonderful!

  3. John Steines

    Rogan, I love this. As a painter I identify with the distance, obliviousness of the painter, so that the observed can be focused on, all knowing that the observed is a projection of the artist’s interpretation, choices, plus. You describe that physical and mental distance so well, and there is such a warmness in how you reference the future madness but note that: ‘Tonight he is beautiful.’ BLISS. I think of Edward Hopper’s Night Hawk, not Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrrace…. Is your title as ‘cafre’ an error then? Beautiful work.

  4. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Rogan, I adore ekphrastic pieces and I also enjoy that this piece is about painter and the painted, not just the painting. There are some lovely, eloquent lines, some lyrical poetic prose. I also wondered, as did John, if the title is Cafe? Still, this is incendiary. Went back and forth about those last three lines, set off on their own. I love the idea of ending on “…blurred by tears.” It’s such an intriguing decision to leave the reader in anguish.

  5. jennifer vanderheyden

    Bravo! Van Gogh (whether or not that’s who you meant, that who I see) is my favorite artist. And this is my favorite line: “If someone loved him enough, they might make him step forward but he remains alone, framing from the dark.” Just brilliant. I agree that you could play a bit with the format. I tend to say to keep the last lines, especially if you change the spacing/format. I would suggest re-thinking the repetitions (“sure” “off,”) Thank you for this….can you let us know if/when it is published?

  6. Sara Comito

    I am intrigued that love and gender might be equally observable, were the artist in scene. I also adore how the artist seems somewhat prescient of the madness to come. I like the repetition of words in this like “light,” and wonder if you might even push it further, as in a mantra, an incandescent incantation. Ah, how he refuses to paint the sky black. Beautiful.

  7. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Rogan, A fine haibun, the prose poetry finished with the 3 line poem, a modified haiku: 10-7-5! I love the skill with which you took a very famous work and made it fresh again. David’s pointing out the line, “He is not mad but madness is coming around the corner, as clear as the hooves of carriage horses..” Your play with love– distance — “too far away to make out love or gender,” and “if someone loved him” and he paints his scene as if blurred by tears” — so strong. I also love “Hair wild with the most brilliant orange paint on his fingers”– I can almost smell the oils and the orange, can feel the orange that, in a self- portrait, becomes his hair. The first 2 lines of the haiku– stands my hair on end– and that last line, a sense of despair, of waste– his sensibility? Yet that work of art lives. Well done, thank you.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest