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When the Riders in Cezanne’s “The Pool at the Jas de Bouffan”

Stuart Greenhouse


When they rode in a column like light angled in past the pigment

when not stopping at the crude bronze horse nosing bronze water

when arrayed by thirst around the spring basin they let their reins slack

when the horses in that slight freedom nosed the basin to drink

sturdy waves of dry grass at their feet

when one rider read from the stone slab at the basin’s head which is
         shaped like a tombstone

when he told me it was no tombstone but a slab at the head of a basin

is when the stone’s words rippled to water-reflected sunlight

is when the riders without leaving no longer took shape

is when the shape of the quiet painted there seemed no less than words

amazed to be uttered yet

no tongue in sight


William Blake wrote “Nothing
can be imagined that is
not part of the Truth”
on the far side, from me, of the now
this painting was.
Before they approached, I was feeling
my way into basin and light and grass
and late summer, and just as all things
that can fill our hearts are there
is how we come into this world,
so light adjusts itself
to the edge water makes
with air. So as we pass
a stone beside a pool on a sunny day
can give the impression of being
faintly engraved with words
now one thing, now another;
peripheral words we manage,
with concentration, to read once
yet take to heart, words always
some version of
let’s remember ourselves this way,
this is the happy ending
we’ve been waiting for.

Stuart Greenhouse

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