Placement, by Sharon Olson

those trees themselves I was never to know
what they had been trying to give me nor
where else I had seen them
—Proust, Within a Budding Grove


the three trees guarded the entrance to a smaller road,
and by the time Marcel’s carriage had turned
down another lane he found he had not finished
thinking about them, how their gloved branches
had brushed him aside

six adolescent girls running on the strand,
pumping their legs, each one trying to outrace
the other, he wanted to be the center of their circle,
the tree around which they would revolve

the trees, the legs of the girls,
the Venetian painters he studied in his art books,
how they rendered air


Piero della Francesca visited Arezzo once,
filled his fresco with stately figures progressing
across a landscape like a stand of trees

there were trees like that above the town,
a group of cypress, and when I saw them
it was as if I had encountered them before

a pattern of images I was assembling,
the sunlight on my legs,
the air between the trunks
bands of blue


it hung on the wall with all my other postcards
an etching of three trees on a hillside
Rembrandt, 1643

I saw it first turning a corner
in Rembrandt’s house, at age eighteen,
a motif that would be repeated

I was trying to understand it all, you see,
the space between the figures
the air between the limbs
putting everything into motion
the way the painter begins


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.

Sharon Olson, a retired librarian, lives in Guilford, Connecticut. Her book The Long Night of Flying (Sixteen Rivers Press) was published in 2006, and her poems have appeared recently in Arroyo Literary Review and U.S. 1 Worksheets.

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