blue and white
through the gallery windows.
Heavy snow, but dry inside in the dark
all the paintings asleep
the night guard walking around on his usual path.
But something new tonight. A light, a flash!
like a signal, unusual after midnight in here tonight
inside the museum.
The guard, in the middle of a yawn, freezes
like that, moves toward the flash, mouth wide open.
The halls zig zag like modern architecture,
white walls (even in the dark) go right then left,
and the flash is now a smoldering yellow glow on the walls
getting brighter as he tip-toes through the halls, gets closer.
The guard goes on and completes his yawn,
comes out of the halls to the shiny glass windows of the gift shop
where the glow flickers like a campfire in the woods.
Or an upstairs window
on a snowy homecoming night.
It’s a nightlight for sale.
A Van Gogh (self portrait) nightlight.
“Hi,” says the nightlight,
as the guard enters the gift shop and goes into another yawn,
a nervous yawn,
the nervous yawn
of a first date, or the first time
he talks to a nightlight.
But he recovers, and “Hi,” he says.
“You're the guard, aren't you? It's good to meet you,”
says Vincent. “I have a show coming here soon, it's very good
to know that you’ll be here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Van Gogh. But you know, well—
it could be anybody doing what I do.”
“That’s untrue. Do you like it in here?”
“I do, a lot. It’s peaceful and safe. Especially on a snowy night.”
“Oh, it’s snowing out there?”
“Yes. And when I walk around in here, I want to do it too,
I want to make a painting.”
Van Gogh’s straw hat flashes even brighter yellow
and he says, “Why don’t you?”
“I think it’s too late for me to do that in life.”
“And that is always untrue. I didn’t know that I
was going to be in art galleries all over the world, let alone
become a nightlight,” says Vincent, looking the night guard
right in the eye. “Go on—when you walk around in here, live
in here, dream in here, stay in here, even when you go home.
But I think that you're already doing that, aren't you?”
The guard lives on the top floor of a carriage house down the street
around the corner from the museum, and as he listens to Van Gogh,
he can see his new brushes, clean white canvases and his paint box
waiting for him, back there in the dark.
He can also see that he's left a window open by the bed, snow is getting in,
and that his just-off-work waitress-artist girlfriend's paint-splattered foot
sticking out of the covers
is getting snowed on
but he feels that everything's going to be alright, after tonight.
“I only sold one, you know,” enlightens the nightlight.