House of Père Lacroix

Tyler Mills

I thought I would write a novel
about the window with its shadow
set in the two-story house.
Cézanne stands at the sunchoke hedge,
alone and licking a brush
among the tree’s traces of changing shade.
The woman—I named her
and almost saw her—could be
flapping a pillowcase at the shutter
as though fanning a fire
that takes the frame by its walls.
Then, inside, a web-stitch quilt
pulls across a poster bed.
The house would be preparing
for wedding guests, Lacroix in the garden
spading a strawberry plant
to move the woolen roots.
Did Cézanne have nothing
to do with the people
he kept within the roof?—a flat red slant
marked by the slash of branches.
There is a close mess of buttered brushstrokes.
The house set back in dashes of leaves—
a perplexing green—guards a
shadow that could almost come
to memory, the window empty.

More by Tyler Mills

“Mike” Test

I was going to write about a crescent
of honeydew melon. An artist told me

she paints grids when she isn’t
certain how to begin. A grid of steel

stores nuclear fuel below the surface
of pools in temporary rooms

with red railings. I glanced at one image,
then checked my email, my nightshade

tank top wet against the dip in my spine
you might like to touch

and say, Stop. Have a glass of water.
There once was a structure three-stories tall

built on an island Japan surrendered.
This building was a bomb.

At its center, liquid hydrogen filled a thermos.
We nicknamed it after an angel

appearing in the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an.
Or maybe the name could have come

from a football player of the Fifties
we might remember on Trivia Night.

I think how hammers strike the thinnest
wires inside a piano. Hard.

Once, we evacuated the coral shore
my grandfather flew over

in a B-17—the typed label of his photo
half torn. The Department of the Interior

Master Plan shows where the people will live.
I swallow vomit after watching

the island wart into an orange bulb. Just before,
birds glanced off the shimmering water.
 

Zinnias

My father’s mother grew a garden of zinnias
to divide the house from the woods:

pop art tops in every color—cream,
peach, royal purple, and even envy

(white-green, I knew, and when the pale
petals opened in early August,

I thought they’d blush like an heirloom
tomato, heir-loom, how strings of wine-dyed

wool lay over the frame of an idea,
how my cheeks look in the mirror

after a run, always the wrong
time of day, thunder rolling around the stadium

of trees, or the sun striking the boughs
with light over and over as though to plead

the green right out of the leaves,
or so it seems to me,

too sensitive, she would say, her love
scientific)—the sunburst petals

a full spectrum except for the sea
returning to you, blue, blue,

the color appearing in language only
when we could know it like a cluster of stars

in the arms of another galaxy
while ours spirals around a black hole,

and now they grow in space, in the satellite
where we live out an idea of permanence

among galactic debris, acquiring stars,
losing vision, the skin touching nothing,

the heads little suns you watch die
on the stem if you want the bloom back.

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Cezanne

Our door was shut to the noon-day heat.
We could not see him.
We might not have heard him either—
Resting, dozing, dreaming pleasantly.
But his step was tremendous—
Are mountains on the march?

He was no man who passed;
But a great faithful horse
Dragging a load
Up the hill.