The Natural Man by Jenifer DeBellis


Like so many other forgotten things in Detroit,
Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Straw Hat
is tucked into a back corner of the DIA¹.

My nose just inches from his, I close my eyes,
wanting nothing more than to see through
my fingertips. I imagine running my hand

over his beard: autumn wheat pre-harvest,
each grain, each blade, sways in the afternoon
breeze. His straw hat is rolled hay bales—

not the good quality feed that’s green spun silk
& supple (a feature the artist gives the eyes),
but the coarse grain of the working class.

In low relief, his shirt is the sea at sunset;
it lulls me in a ripple & pitch of waves known
to a man who’s been alone in these waters

or has lost his way in such depths. His eyes
wander the room. He looks everywhere as if
watching the world from the grave. The skyscape

is a sparrow-pocked sky during an Indian
summer flight. His skin emits warmth. I want
to touch his lips, trace the heart of his ear, press

his hat rim from his forehead & leave a kiss
as I would for a friend I may never see again.



¹Detroit Institute of Arts



About the Author

Metro Detroit writer Jenifer DeBellis is Pink Panther Magazine’s Executive Editor and a Solstice Lit Mag ebook and poetry reader. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College and is a former writer-in-residence for the Meadow Brook Writing Project. Jenifer teaches creative and academic writing for local colleges and is a workshop facilitator for Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Writing Camps. Her work appears in publications such as the Aurorean, AWP’s Festival WriterThe Good Men Project, Literary Orphans, Sliver of Stone and Solstice Literary Magazine.





Photo credit: Wikimedia
“Self Portrait by Vincent Willem van Gogh” – Photo Credit: Wikimedia. Click on image to see the art at Detroit Institute of Arts.