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Jake Syersak

A Note on “The Sunflower’s Err”:

What began as an ekphrastic poem about van Gogh’s Les Tournesols eventually turned into an attempt to relate more personally to the life-long mental anguish and loneliness he suffered from. The idea was to use his work as a window into pain but keep enough distance so that the original images—his paintings—would fall away as needed accompaniment. I’d been interested for some time in how visual images could translate into written text. The experiment here was to keep the translator center stage in the midst of translation.



The Sunflower’s Err


“we don’t regret error. It is our emotional house.”

–Lisa Robertson




Is there chaos


in van Gogh’s eye,


his sunflowers

 (Les Tournesols),


will allow entrance

to my own—


this alias, avatar, flamed

asterisk, tongued


through someone else’s

sun, will turn me


tournesol, a flower’s misfire

of autumn’s


motley, so

I can radiate


outward yellow avarice

in every tense,


sidewind a warm

conduit to portals


of laughter

& allow


laughter itself

a portal its own




It’s the autumn



like violin



a body

via writ note,


damns the husk

in a land-


scape’s thirst.

One way a mirror


sucks another’s

burnt-sienna; or an


instrument fills

with volume the space


it inhabits; or

a landscapist’s orangerie


all the spectrums of

rouge: all dryly


watered vessels

of jewels’ facets,


the intrinsic

of tea


leaves’ spectral

& inherent blooms




The autumn



like violin



a body

via writ note,


damns the husk

in a land-


scape’s thirst.

One way a mirror


sucks another’s

burnt-sienna, orangerie


of spectrums, of

rouge, dryly



like a jewel


the intrinsic

into tea


leaves’ spectral






In every painting’s



a scoliosis, the worthy



of (perhaps) the harshest

question marks.


like an error,


I am heir to the sunflower.

A misnomer,


the limnal accrual

of anchors,


the every

verb my phantom


limbs inhabit

to raze




Have you seen

those houses


van Gogh painted


in Arles, a year or

two before he died?


How less skewed, how

less vibrant, burnt


far less vividly

than any done in Auvers.


It begs a question:

if death exists


or accrues a priori

through us,


combing through

us such exquisite,




explicitly soft



how much of us

is hush   /   







Yes I want degrees

of err to overtake


erasure, mine error,



into my insides:


Bend wind

like a reed’s agency


more rotund

symmetries of thirst,


thirst to coif

a clef


& hear a leaf

curl autumn,


to automate the way

an apple hangs


a tree, the one true

sex of geometry:


the only fruit

reality’s sequins


won’t assign

a flesh to





To dye an

eye into


my emergency,

I’ve crafted


a sunflower,

borrowed resiliency


to wearing

reality’s tense:


& this house

I choose


in not to sound


sounds in—

to hither a refract


& escape via

the acoustic’s,


that quasi-solar

globule, fired




from summers



the sun’ll

never debt

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