Matthew Hittinger



Cézanne was wrong, or rather correct
          in his error, error an hourglass crack
                    through which motion escapes, divides
          page center. Do I make his abstract
crevice too concrete? Formed by two

bulbous pear ends, proximity anchors
          composition, at least here's where
                    he draws my eye, intersects pencil line
          with pencil line until one edge opens
one edge. This is not a still life; still

lifes are rarely still. If motion escapes
          motion must exist, if not in the pears
                    (for this is not about pears) then perhaps
          outside the plate where the contours
of gathered drapery, organic fronds

blasts of black and blue highlight
          stillness, or rather, its erasure. If not
                    cloth, then mark the fronds' energy
          Cézanne's eye caught : object vibrations
rendered in hues at once complimentary

and contradictory to pear hues. Motion
          radiates, spirals off, escapes in chaos.
                    A curious form expands like calipers;
          river entering ocean, it is both exit
and entrance, the convergence of pure

violet line and periwinkle wash a road
          that disappears beneath plate, a bent
                    wishbone unbroken in the commotion.
          The pears—centered, harnessed—say no,
this is not about us, about how we

are represented. We could very well
          be apples, peaches, oranges, a flower,
                    guitar or vase. We are merely a study
          of groupings, the unstable motion
when objects approach touch. We are

watercolor, not oil; pencil and paper,
          not canvas.
Perhaps they do not know
                    of their contemporary, Pot of Flowers
          and Pears,
where our three-quarter
view Anjou shares its pose with Bosc.

Which brings me to color. The pears
          reflect themselves onto a plate made
                    of semi-circular lines, brush takes
          tans, yellows, browns, muddies
them, makes squiggles to indicate

shade and shadow, plate rimmed
          with color, object reflecting objects.
                    Sienna, ocher pigments stroke pear
          bulge, hint of green where shadow
gathers thickest, muted, earthy

color bound by gray pencil marks,
          whole sections left white, not blank,
                    but the white where light lifts form
          into pears (even though this is not
about pears). As a document of the way

Cézanne saw, this work marks evolution :
          pears still bound by line, color still
                    within the line, yet the drapery looks
          forward, folds toward floating color,
its identity independent from the object.

Dissolved outlines form a scumbled
          crevice through which light escapes,
                    dissipates, reminding us of error's
          beauty, that this is not about pears,
most certainly not about pears.



Name : Forelle. Home : South
          Africa. From one angle
                    the Bartlett bell, thought not
                              as supple, skin more like
                                        an apple's : green with a touch
                                                  of blush from base to stem-
                                                            tip, the whole big bulge
                                                                      freckled in burnt umber.

                                                                                          Cinnamon and russet,
                                                                                a Bosc pear cut into four
                                                                      creates three-sided pieces :
                                                            two flat planes that converge
                                                  in a spinal line like the edge
                                        of a prism while the third
                              surface slopes and bloats.

          The whole shape a cello :
long neck and wide base
          with two dark pits where
                    seeds wink like sound holes
                              air drying-out skin sheen
                                        ivory stained sepia.

                                                            In the factory, do they pare
                                                                      Forelle, Bosc, meditate
                                                                                on shape, color, or are they
                                                                                          satisfied with oval Anjous,
                                                                                paring like they pare apples?

                                                            Start at the top, slice
                                                  under, wind down, skin
                                        slipped in one strip, snapped
                              back to slap a now hollow core.

          Sliced in halves, quarters, de-
pitted inside fails to realize
          outside shape, something new :

                              tongue sucks down slippery meat,
                                        concentrated juices, thick syrup.

                                                            Guilty pleasure, $0.69 a can.



          The simple things of life : a wrinkle
slashes the label from the far arm

          of 'T' in TRADER down through RIVER's
'V' and 'R' in PEARS, white at the high

          points where color abraded an orange
background to form new whitecaps, navy

          ocean. The wrinkle fades into black
wave backs, blotches rimmed with green, flattened

          like the trade ship's direct perspective.
A hole in the sail reveals not sky

          but wood grain as glue lines striate faux
sky and bisect the wrinkle : a palm

          crease, a stylized sunset rendered
from memory. Three tiers of burnt sails

          echo the mid mast sails as the ship
cuts water, white froth caught against hull,

          light source imaginary, outside
the frame casting half the hull pure black,

          froth and paint-scrape the only whites found
as one line strung taut round its pulley

          echoes the white wrinkle. Fiery
trim highlights mast and line, picturesque,

          true, but saved oddly enough by its
commercial composition : TRADER

          in the sky, tomato red letters
outlined in yellow used for tiny

          BRAND. To the left REG U.S. PAT. OFF
rests under TR parted from BRAND

          by the wrinkle. PEARS hover above
the sea crowned by ROGUE RIVER VALLEY.

          A blue pyramid—PACKED AND SHIPPED BY
on one line, ____oot AND COMPANY

          INC. on the second—anchors the ship,
a large gash erasing half the first

          word, MEDFORD OREGON, USA
cropped, CONTENTS 4/5 BUSHEL balanced.

          SCHMIDT L. CO. PORTLAND OR a narrow
streak of script not to read, not to see

          the ad as it appears here today,

antique, fifty years since pre-printed

          boxes replaced the labels pasted
on a crate's cracked side, but its land-mass

          as it roams like a coast eroded
by a wood grain sea, punctuated

          by nail head islands, the scrape and grate
against other crates as they tasted

          the faded 500 scrawled beyond
the ad's map edge and flung the graphite

          coordinates into bits. The bits
rediscovered bit by bit persist.



I like words like no and not and nor. I read a poem that started "Cezanne is right" and immediately thought "No. Cezanne was wrong" in part out of jealousy for this other poet mentioning pears, in part because I distrust outright affirmation. The negating statement became the opening line that helped revise a rough early version of this poem. And thankfully the other poem in question ends with an understanding of negative space—"the blanks."

Pears aren't all surface. Nor are they all fresh produce. Here's to canned fruit!

Old crates. Love em. Realized I had been using this one as a bookshelf for years without fully noticing the old label on its side. The moment of re-discovery was as thrilling as the moment I found this line in an Elizabeth Bishop letter: "Yesterday I was allowed a pear—and I never tasted anything so delicious in my life—so it is going to be nice to re-discover the simple things of life bit by bit..."