Cézanne has placed a surly easel
in what as yet does not exist.
He knows the geology of absence,
layer upon layer, so well that already
the naked in the canvas becomes fully authentic.
The road that winds in last year’s grass
is still only a curve in the mind,
stolen from an ancient Chinese.
It runs up into a soiled chapter
that he has scraped off with his knife –
you were never there!
Start with the shadows
and work in towards the brighter centre.
The blue-grey can tempt back a field.
Like his life this treacherous year:
the throbbing foot that refuses to heal
he may possibly have to part with.
At the same time the road that insists, once more –
what a thirst for sun!
Among the women in dark headcloths
his mother moves, bent in grief for one dead.
When the others have disappeared round the bend,
she is on an errand,
still there like a misty blue over the road.
So hard to endure any other contact –
It is colour that can make contact with the world.
He has certainly mentioned the logic. And the old woman.
But such as approximate values.
No theory can catch hold of
the raging forces within things.
Only a grip of colours
can force ‘reality’ to make a reply.
Blotch upon blotch, a stubborn scale
that lifts out a town from the town:
gables, a church tower, a possible road
and a fugue of swallows.
Each house is uninhabited: waiting
for the one with strength enough to return.
A day is a year.
Like his life –
Took decades to realise that vegetation is blue.
And now in just a few minutes he has managed
to paint the sound of bells.
The brush drops.
The canvas has forced into existence a landscape
in what simply calls itself landscape.
And the road really winds.
Every second has a moist gleam
that no one could see before.
He stands with his throbbing pain
in last year’s suddenly fresh grass.