SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Golden Shovel in the Voice of Margot Begemann

I crumple marriage offers made by fishermen,

masons, bakers of brioche, for I know

my consecration is to marry the

great Van Gogh. Look at history and see

men of genius wrecked before there is

the chance for one brave girl to swoop down, dangerous

to his enemies and doubters, the

critics and hecklers, and save him from that storm.

My love shall be his shield, prevent the terrible.

No shy virgin, I’ve seen four decades; they

have handled me the way some clumsy half-

cocked violin restorer does a never-

again-same harp. I know the score. I found

Vincent living with his mother in these

snake-filled backwoods, where gossips embroider the dangers

of his past romancing of a whore. Sufficient

to say I’m not scared off. Inside me, too,

there is a prostitute and a barkeep,

a seamstress and a siren and a shore.


Note: In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh wrote about Margot Begemann, briefly his fiancée, “It’s a pity I didn’t meet her earlier—say 10 years ago or so. Now she gives me the impression of a Cremona violin that’s been spoiled in the past by bad bunglers of restorers.” He ended their relationship the same year it began. Margot drank poison but recovered.

Jenna Le (jennalewriting.com) authored Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018; 1st ed. pub. by Anchor & Plume, 2016), which won Second Place in the 2017 Elgin Awards. Her poetry appears in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, West Branch, and elsewhere.