He squeezed the trigger. Click. He squeezed again, twice. Click. Click. Impatient, he tossed the pistol into the field of ripe wheat, flushing out a murder of crows, then turned back to his canvas, a changed man. Sunflowers and windblown golden fields instantly became passé. From that day on chiaroscuro became his trademark. His career took off. Every month marked a new debut. And every month ended with one less body part. Naturally, the right ear went first (his newly pierced lobe, while hip, throbbed with infection). Then one-by-one he let go of his aching toes (corn-riddled from years of walking to find the perfect en plein air scene) starting with the little piggy on his left foot and ending with the big toe of his right. An eye (his right) was lost in a flash of green flame as he prepared a glass of Absinthe. (Art critics found the black patch he wore exotic.) Arthritis from signing too many autographs caused him to pluck off the fingers of his right hand like the petals of a “She loves me not” flower. Later, to save time, he paid a prostitute to cut off his whole left hand. And without hands, arms were nothing more than a nuisance. So one night Vincent laid down between the rails of the tracks that ran on the wrong side of town, stretched out Christ-like, and sacrificed his arms to a passing train. He spent the next ten years isolated in his studio, perfecting his technique of painting with the brush clenched between his teeth. Eventually, Vincent’s agent begged him to put one last show together (debts were piling up as quickly as Vincent’s unseen paintings). When Theo wheeled his now completely blind (Vincent had scooped out his remaining eye when a cataract from the bright days of Arles had replaced his sight with a permanent fog) and legless brother (Vincent had determined there was no point in walking if he couldn’t see where to go) through the doors of the posh Paris gallery, the hushed crowd bowed as if they were in the presence of a wizened holy man who held the wisdom of all art within him. Vincent received them one by one with a gentle nod of his head (he had bitten off his tongue in a fit of rage when he couldn’t make the brush do what he wanted it to do). After thirty tense minutes of free champagne and anxious murmurings, the first van Gogh in more than a decade was unveiled to the crowd stunned mute by what they saw. In the end, not one bid was offered. Not one painting sold. The sullen and cynical connoisseurs simply turned their backs and walked away. After years of self-abuse, Vincent had whittled his palette down to just one color, Mars Black. And every inch of every canvas he painted in those ten years had become so completely filled with paint, that the dark letters of his signature that gave his art its worth were completely obliterated by flocks and flocks of crows.
Kip Knott is a writer, teacher, photographer, and part-time art dealer living in Delaware, Ohio. His third full-length book of poetry, The Other Side of Who I Am, is available from Kelsay Books. A new poetry chapbook, The Misanthrope in Moonlight, is available from Bottlecap Press. You can follow him on Instagram at @kip.knott and read more of his work at www.kipknott.com.