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Four poems by Rebecca Tamás

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

In Arles

Strange Van Gogh is my pet.
‘Let me pet you,’ I say.
He moves his red head
in an organised flame movement.

He has tears on his face which I try
and wipe off with a ‘Sunflowers’
National Gallery tea towel,
but he doesn’t want me to.
Nor does he want a sip of tea
from the smaller ‘Starry Night’

‘Please’ I say, now crying myself.
All of these tears fit into the Van Gogh
narrative, interpreted either as the signs
of a tragic life, or undiagnosed bi-polar

Strange Van Gogh has a strange effect on me.
If he would let me bury my face in that red beard
I would give him everything I have.
I would part with the savings of £3000 pounds
that I have been keeping for years to do a US road trip.

Strange Van Gogh’s ear is hurting, phantom sound,
ugly ghost-congealment. He’d like to do a painting if I’d
leave him alone. He doesn’t want to hear me tell
him again how he is the most beloved popular artist of the
20th and 21st century.

‘Before I ever met you, your paintings were fucking me.’
Strange Van Gogh shrugs and I slip my hand inside his shirt.
I gesture towards the ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’ coverlet,
where some actual fucking, could, in theory, take place.

‘The thing is, I love you completely,’ I say.
‘I am in love with seeing you cut into life,
in love with seeing it bleed all over everything.’

Strange Van Gogh begins a new sketch of my head,
this takes a while.
He then begins to paint it in, making my cheeks green,
my hair melon-pink, my lips curled white fronds.

Everyone will want to buy it.



He says he likes nature in some circumstances,
for example: a salad.
That’s interesting I say.

These rivers, these mountains,
these whooping forests
are, after all, terrifying.

Explain: why are they terrifying?

These rivers, these mountains,
these whooping forests
contain the terror of love.
The terror of love is hard to bear,
it is upsetting.

The rivers etc cannot be said to love except that
they do. But you are not what they love,
nor do you love like them.

For example, the forests don’t stay up at night sobbing like
you might over pressing into someone, or a pack of false
eyelashes left on the night bus.

The forests are not afraid of anything, nor are they brave.
Greenness is not being brave it is being marvellous,
it is converting light and eating it, and thrusting out,
where everything is a fuck, the light and the water is,
topsoil, xylem.

The forest, rivers and so on have different loves for each different seed,
different waves, different deaths, fronds, affections in each partial inch,
each stalk, each tongue.

Explain: why am I meant to be afraid of this?

Because how are we meant to begin?


The Copenhagen Interpretation
for Chelsea Manning

In the darkness a particle hovers on top of itself,
it moves and the other, entangled, moves with it
a billion light years across space.
‘Spooky,’ to paraphrase Einstein.

What are you moving Chelsea?
Would you borrow my vagina for a while?
I won’t miss it and they won’t let you have one
out there.
I wonder about when you woke up and said to
yourself, ‘yes, a system.’
I think, of course you are a woman.
Your tongue burns.

At a quantum level, nothing in that wall has yet
become itself, the light waves split and stretch,
follow themselves through two spaces at once.
When they are observed they breathe and fix themselves,
they come into the world.

Every window says the same thing, which is sky.
The sodden ground after rain, the guard’s block
where someone is looking at photos of an
actress leaked on the internet, her bra up over her chest.
The mud has turned so black that it almost gives
out purple.

At your old school someone is pushing another child’s face
into the mud as if they have to, as if this is the selected
game, the tears are the game, the diary in red ink,
the joyful ascent to social success, the girl in too tight
denim shorts who gets an A in French.
What if it stops? What if the girl in shorts stoops down and
licks the mud? What happens then?
The light in the air is very old, it knows nothing.

I know almost nothing about death Chelsea,
and you know almost everything.
Your dead are speaking to each other across the
variable field, particles opening their wet mouths.
They deny standing to causality.

My own image of paradise is a fall of light,
electricity streaking across everything in green sheets,
huge open water at 5505 degrees centigrade,
snow doing violence to the surfaces of skin.

No-one wants to say it, because it sounds tacky,
but love is one kind of unceasing great resistance.
Love catches sight of the mess of dead birds, used water
bottles and human hair and does not deify them.
How hard that is, to paint no picture, to not organise,
even a little.
So love smells the glut and stench and is mainly alright with it.
It reaches up to a twice decorated general for a kiss,
good things do not necessarily happen.


for Amit Chaudhuri

Walking around the gallery I pay attention
to the beautiful pears, the beautiful apples,
the beautiful women pre-ravishment or
holding water jugs,
the beautiful self portrait of a man with
thick hanging jowls,
the beautiful cityscapes stuffed with coy angels,
the ice turning beautifully on frozen Dutch ponds,
a beautiful bleeding Christ, soft with arms outstretched,
like a real man might be,
beautiful deer snipping leaves off low bushes,
a soldier’s beautiful velvet jacket,
a beautiful slab of ham resting on green wrappings.

Bits of me might fall off and be analysed,
might slip into a bronzed image
that radiates peace and knowledge,
that glows over the dinner table of good people
making good decisions,
that crisps into immobility, blue tint of blood loss.

I once saw a carved figure from the ice age,
round human body with a shrieking lion’s head.
The day was strange, alien tongue
lolling in my mouth.
R O A R said the figure,
thought tugging at itself to escape,
the first thought to step onto the moon,
lunar and bizarre.

Ah, I think, reality is a slut.
It keeps on wanting.



Rebecca Tamás was born in London, and is currently living in Norwich, where she is studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first poetry pamphlet, The Ophelia Letters, was published by Salt in 2013, and she has most recently been published in Best British Poetry 2014 and B O D Y. She is at work on a full collection, focusing on witchcraft, female alterity and strangeness.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter –
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