Monet’s Poplars on the Epte by Dawn Manning

Before X-rays and Rorschach, there was the horizon, water
doubling a stand of poplars into the head
of a reclining Buddha,
into the radioactive glow of a pelvic scan,
stippled green ilium breaking apart
atom from atom

until the landscape
is a death mask, sky filling the hollows
of eyes and muzzle. This shore’s not a temple.
It is for sale. Anyone
with thirty pounds can buy a piece of it, harrow
the trees out by their roots, see behind the mask to death itself.

“Monet’s Poplars on the Epte”

This particular painting from Monet’s poplars series is housed in the National Galleries of Scotland.  As the trees were being sold off for timber, a timber merchant helped buy the trees for 30£ so that Monet could continue painting them.  The lines “This shore’s not a temple. / It is for sale” refers to Ezra Pound’s infamous and variable incantation in The Cantos:  “The temple is holy because it is not for sale” (canto 97 and 98).


About Dawn Manning