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Poets of Franklin County

John Palmer poem: “Houses by Cézanne”

‘Houses by Cézanne’ By John Palmer of Heath

The road swings south of the dusty houses,

slopes past outcropped mules to the sculpted fruit

of orchards by the coast, to flowers whose essence

rides like gold-green oil in cruets, to the sea.

Nobody built these houses.

They came like geometry:

some air pumped with a blue, evening light, made

voluminous by the crunch of shadows.

What’s gray

is linear. What’s green is a possible life apart,

a breathless step down from the street to a flat

with cobalt bowls, long-stemmed tables, and lemons.

She drew his hand clenched around a lemon, signed

the sheet “DuToit.” Pressed fists against his eyes.

What’s white curves like the opening of a prayer.

Nobody’s waited for. The farmer in his wagon

said the hills had their “cloud-caps on.” His wife

saw houses wrapped in secrets.

Nobody lives here:

arc, parallel, bisected hill, tan points

beneath blue-metal sky.

Nearby, a hostel

built in a monastery kitchen sends its guests

to bed in ovens. Everyone dreams of fire and air.

Everyone dreams of tongues of fire.

The children

who mocked as he worked grew arid and repeatable,

a row of black cleft-marks above the road.

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