In the Musée d'Orsay
About suffering, the Old Masters, they were never wrong.
—W. H. Auden
We flail our bodies along, legs
failing, arches falling, but we've never
seen such light, tint, and tone at once,
the sky gushing through the ribs of steel
to show each Cézanne and Van Gogh,
in a line along the wall, no darker than the real
windows to the France outside, Montmartre,
mount of martyrs on the hill,
bleached in sun like a cemetery,
the sky deep blue above the Sacre Coeur
and Seine with orange Magritte hot-air balloons
and puffy bruised-on-the-bottom clouds.
Raised a temple to the train, then
almost razed, the bones were resurrected,
the skeleton was saved and given
new transparent flesh.
Through the crystal ceiling and
high windows everywhere,
light falls past us to the ground
where sculptures writhe, held down
by stone that lends its form
to all their yearning.
We should stop before we kill ourselves,
and we have to pee again,
and it's always in the basement,
but there's also always one more room
of air and colour, and a greedy childish
clarity still intact inside
drags us to another sunlit day in Arles,
its wrung-out cypresses squirming up,
or the stony mount of gauzy St. Victoire,
till we are down, but still not out,
crawling towards another bright Monet
mirage of river, sea, and sky,
gasping, water, water as we die.
William Greenway’s newest collection Selected Poems was the winner of the 2014 FutureCycle Press Poetry Book of the Year Award. Everywhere at Once (2008), won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award, as did his Ascending Order (2003), both from the University of Akron Press. He has published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner, and has won the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and was 1994 Georgia Author of the Year. He’s Professor Emeritus of English at Youngstown State University, but lives now in Ephrata, PA.
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