France on Canvas: Sketches by Peter Donnelly

France on Canvas: Sketches

I: Van Gogh

Its “vine-clad hills”

in glowing bromine, the Roman ruins of Burgundy

in a crumbled tumbling of rock 

deep-lie under 

overgrowing grass. 

Deeper down l’Hexagone

in heavier-heated Arles 

which is 

blotching into yellow under the eye, under Van Gogh’s brush,

and the radiating rays

as outgrowth bristles and sprouts about the

sun-baked stones Romans set down –

now cast into complexifying ruin 

in part by the constant of time –

the landscape incubates; desiccating 

colour palettes enrichen

and drench under

the weight of torpidity. 

On fields with their compacted bales

of hay is positioned Van Gogh,

the colour-palette toasting under rays 

captured in the scene into

an off-orange: 

the cusps of the light spectrum shimmer in the Arles summer;

in autumn will be sudden showers 

apparitions of stone in sulphurous mist

(the walked way arenaceous).

The land, all the while, ochres –

in a fug of cricket-ticking, 

sitting low in the terrain, 

dissimulated and disguising into the plain –

a stretch of perception saturates and expires.

Back at Burgundy,

in the immersion of this stimuli,

where unkempt vegetation

whiskers the silence of stone,

and that stone has dislodged and dislodges from itself

into these separations and relative entities

strewn to a ruined universe pulled apart by time

in the forms of splittings and fissurings

(and still subject to its pulling and violences):

reality-ending destructions quite invisible to the human eye.

This cosmological constant and compound 

of chaos-and-cosmos:

oppositional forces integral to each other 

remain bound in an agon together.

In disintegration, astonishing beauty

informed by previous symmetry.

Augustine gates, majestic, remain 

still slow-destructing and cosmogic in the atmosphere, 

kilometres away;

retain degrees of symmetry in white heat:

a monument of discipline and detail.

The hard-surfaced substance 

further sun-stroked 

as the evening frizzles and frazzles 

into an horizon of sunburst and stardust:

the vista is stellar;

celestial radiation pours over lines of vines.

As the hours elapse, and the globe’s angle pulls,

russet blends and bends to yoke-yellow 

through a warping and blurring of colours.

Oppression occupies the space,

and burgeons within it.

This streams out from its nuclear source,

onto this grass, and

enhances in this scene: the ridges of the amphitheatre – 

where the curves and angles are pock-marked out of symmetry –

and the cohesion continues to split and rubble-out

in jumbled tumblings of rock.

Fleet-footed angel at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

II: Monet

Craggy Normandy, its jagged


face outwards at the billow of 

slashing lapping waves;

it moves and settles and moves

under Monet’s gaze.

Above and beyond them 

there is overcast, itself in motion – clouds resettling

in fast interspersion 

and reinterpretation 

above windswept detail.

As the sky darkens and the wind picks

up further, the

water has opaqued 

more densely 

with a gain in rapidity.

And in it, this interplay of elements 

across the shape-to-shape

as shadows impress on and pass

through and into the water-body;

it expresses the inward

potential of human depth.

Elaborated upon canvas, a saline wave-slush,

the wash of the elementary;

tingling shale and shell – the hush and crush of it

(cushioning its drag) coruscates to 

Monet’s eye; his foot crunches onto the brae, a

sense of things – deliquescent and lingering.

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