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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 15: Sept. 2022
Poem: 132 words
By Rick Mulkey

Late Summer Meditation on Van Gogh’s
Wheatfield with a Reaper


Wheatfield with a Reaper: Painting by Vincent van Gogh

Summer’s fevered gauze drapes heavily over the garden, 
tree limbs turn slack and wilt in August’s sun. 
The clay earth cracks open beneath the blades 
of yellowing grass. Even songbirds grow quiet 
soon after sunrise, then hide away the day 
wherever shade allows it. Still the sky lures 
me out from the house into the shimmering silence. 
There is no talking, and the wind begins to cast off 
the worries I spent the morning scratching over, 
blind mole tunneling for the sake of digging. 
Sure, there’s danger in the world. Only surface tension 
keeps the walls from falling in. Everything will die. 
But let it be in sunlight, so when we see it coming, 
the reaper’s blade will be bright and shining. 




Publisher’s Note:

Wheatfield with a Reaper (oil on canvas, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889), by Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), is on view at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation):

Rick Mulkey
Issue 15, September 2022

is the author of six collections, including All These Hungers; Ravenous: New & Selected Poems; Toward Any Darkness; Before the Age of Reason; and Bluefield Breakdown. Individual poems and essays have appeared widely, including in Poetry East, Georgia Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Shenandoah, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Poetry Daily, and the anthologies American Poetry: the Next Generation; The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volumes I and II; and A Millennial Sampler of South Carolina Poetry, among others. His awards include the Hawthornden Fellowship, the Charles Angoff Award from The Literary Review, and the Gearhart Poetry Prize from Southeast Review. Mulkey is director and co-founder of the Converse Low Residency MFA [Converse University, South Carolina].

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