Van Gogh Makes Love
to the Shadows

by Lucas Clark

In the dead of night, van Gogh drunkenly plods down a dirt path. His ear is gone. It is very dark; clouds flood the sky, snuffing the stars and moon with dull grayness. The countryside becomes a pitch-black shadow.

Alongside the pathway, van Gogh plucks shadow flowers that he cannot see—taking sunflowers, irises, geraniums, anemones, daisies, daffodils, and chrysanthemums into his hands. He brings them to his nose and inhales shadow. “I must’ve died alone,  a long, long time ago,” he says.

By the time he gets home, it’s almost dawn. He stumbles through the front door. His shadow lover waits for him, sitting at the edge of his bed. Her head is down with hands folded in her lap. He leaves the room lightless—he doesn’t want her to disappear again.

“My darling,” he says. “I’ve picked these for you.” He gives her the shadow flowers. Without words, she takes them and plants them in her hair. He knows her head will make a lovely garden, but he can’t tell if she likes them or not.

He holds her close to him in the bed now. There is a wren warbling outside his window, greeting the faint morning light. She gives him shadow kisses along his neck and on the gash where his ear used to be. Time is short. He holds her closer. Yes—making love is allowing yourself to fade into shadow.

Afterwards, he gets an idea. He doesn’t know that it’s too late. He grabs shadow paint and a shadow brush and a shadow canvas, painting her as quick as he can. The sun comes. He isn’t finished. He closes his eyes. The shadows bleed from the room, sinking beneath the floorboards and into dirt. His eyes are still closed, and he doesn’t want to open them without her there.

“Darling,” he says. “Are you still here or is it just me?”

Lucas Clark writes about his dreams often. He has a reoccurring nightmare where he is chased by black-haired dogs. He doesn’t know what this means.
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