“Climate Protesters Throw Soup Over Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers'” by Michael Meyerhofer

Michael Meyerhofer


For hours, I’ve been arguing
with a friend who believes teachers
are on a crusade to make children
use litter boxes when I hear
about sunflowers bathed in soup
to protest the use of fossil fuels.
Last night, I kept picturing
my brother’s gaze before he died,
like he could see the whole
hospital ward melting, wavelengths
collapsing into pinheads
the way time does when you fly
fast enough. I don’t know how
to keep you safe. Turns out
Van Gogh made several paintings
of sunflowers in pale vases,
petals drooping like golden rain,
like he felt he’d missed something.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget
what the earth makes of our bones,
way down deep in vaults
that never get locked. One day,
there will be no one left to explain
how clay yields yellow ochre
and the hair of wild beasts
can be bristled into brushwork,
how dust can be squeezed into stars.

from Poets Respond
October 16, 2022


Michael Meyerhofer: “This ended up not making it into the poem but lately, I’ve been watching this series on YouTube that goes over every eon of our planet’s history, highlighting which species survived various climate disasters and which ones didn’t—as well as (in some cases) which species appears to have caused the very event that led to their own extinction, and how that same event might be viewed as a fortuitous by whatever species took their place. The older I get, the more it feels like every idea needs to be intertwined with its opposite. We’re right to place all this importance on our own survival—not to mention our artwork—but for me, some of that urgency also comes from the admittedly trite realization that all of this will be over soon enough, so we’d better cherish it while we can.” (web)

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