Vincent van Gogh, “Sorrow,” 1882 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Now years have passed, the pain is gone–

physical pain, the dreams remain,

demons, terror, always the same.


Family gone–denouement

of war, of destruction, of fright–

she mourns them still, alone at night.


For evil men, she was a pawn.

They took her youth, left no trace

in tattooed arm and withered face.


The past is gone, she won’t dwell on,

memories–peace comes, with a book,

a cat, some tea, a quiet nook


in which she sits, sometimes till dawn,

longing to die, willing to live,

she tries not to hate; she tries to forgive.


This week, Jane asked us to write about pain for her poetry challenge in a poem using the rhyme scheme: abb acc add aee, etc. I didn’t use the prompt words or the image she suggested. I think this Van Gogh drawing conveys the mood of the poem. The model was pregnant and abandoned by the father of the child. She was forced to prostitute herself to buy food. Van Gogh took her in as a model, paid her rent, and shared his bread with her. The Wikipedia page has more information.

24 thoughts on “Survivor

  1. This was a lovely way to portray surviving by helping us to see Van Gogh’s charitable and giving side. It was full of pathos and sadness through your words, Merril. By being saved, she can have simple times where food, light and book may help enliven her world.

    • The poem wasn’t about the model in Van Gogh’s drawing. I wrote the poem first. Then I found the drawing, and I just thought it reflected the mood. But I thought that story was interesting, too.

      • This was amazing how you found “real life,” after your dramatic poem was written.
        I didn’t mean to presume anything. this is cool how you read about the artwork afterwards and found the story not beforehand to inspire this. 🙂 She looks like someone who deserves a hug, Merril.

      • She does. I hope it’s a pose and not real pathos. From what Van Gogh wrote to his brother though, it seems her life was tragic–although her story was certainly not that uncommon.

      • Your poem was interesting to give the young woman’s background full of terror and pain. Then to have her thoughts portrayed was a really meaningful interpretation.

        I agree, hopefully a pose (rather than pathos) to be drawn as the artist, Van Gogh’s model.
        At least she had her simple needs met, which did improve her circumstances.

    • Thanks, Marian. Yes, Rodin and other artists have portrayed sorrow. We’ve seen many Rodin sculptures at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia.
      I just used the Van Gogh to illustrate.
      Also–for some reason, I had to approve your comment when I don’t usually have to.

  2. WordPress has blocked my comments on other WP blog posts, so I’m using my FB account to post. It’s an annoying work-around until the Happiness Engineers at WP fix the problem internally. Sorry for the inconvenience, but that’s the only way my comment will post now.

  3. We often hear about Van Gogh’s extraordinary paintings but rarely are we shown the opportunity to admire any of his sketches. You’ve done excellent work in portraying the subject in his drawing. She certainly is a survivor!

  4. Pingback: Poetry challenge Painful silence: the entries – Jane Dougherty Writes

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