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Lay for the Day
19th January

1839, the birth of Paul Cézanne, painter. The Tate Gallery holds an exquisite watercolour painted in 1906, the last year of his life, of his gardener, Monsieur Vallier.

Vallier & Cézanne


The apples bruise themselves
blue, from the inside out.

They’re bronze, going
oxide green, granite, brass,
pushing each other aside.

We feel them push the iron
in our blood sideways.

They’re beside themselves
in a calm beyond terror and loss,
the fruit of knowledge.

The light goes over, behind them,
the double-edged sword.


The gardener becomes his garden,
this earthen face no longer seen
beneath the flowers – the glancing
watercolour that invites the pollinating eye.

His glance is downward, to the earth.
The sepals of his eye leave undisclosed
what fruit it holds.
The painter’s eye, for its part, won’t intrude.

Persistently set to this fruitless task,
his long frame shaped by unregarded work
in the motley shade settling on a chair,
geranium red, forget-me-not blue –

the master applies himself to the servant.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’89-’91

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar