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Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





               (Onions and Bottle, 1895, Cézanne)

          "A painter can say all he wants to with fruit . . . ."

                                                       —Edouard Manet

or even vegetables, these crinkly-skinned onions
on a kitchen table, painted by Cézanne.
What did he want to tell us about their many layers,
their astringent flesh, pungent breath, thin skins?
Was it the way they could fill a plate, nestle in a table
cloth, look like they belonged there, eggs
in a nest?  Or how they add depth to a stew
or a bouillabaisse without becoming the thing itself,
like the notes in a chord, or the blue wash that's part
of the undercoat, part of the shadow.  Unlike other
still lifes, these onions are living: green shoots burst
out their tops, electric, wired, a green dance
of new growth.  Green flames singing in the hearth.
Green fingers shooting for the sun.  What else
could he want to say, except that every thing
on this small blue ball is alive, these papery globes,
the throat of the wine bottle, the billions of molecules
that make up my skin and yours, the air between our lips,
charged with energy, the cells that slough off
when they touch, when we love.


© by Barbara Crooker


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