The View From Cezanne’s Studio

The guide book said the one thing you shouldn’t miss
in Aix was the view from Cezanne’s atelier. The No. 1
bus dropped me off on a hill and the man standing
by the driver said “La bas,” down there, and so I
walked to where two college girls were standing,
waiting for the gates to open at 2, after lunch.

Up the hill came a man waving me off, saying
“Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.”  He was about
my age, less hair, near-sighted like me I guessed
from his glasses.  “It costs five euros,” he said,
and the college girls looked at him with studied
condescension; how could he know more
than their professor had taught them?

“I’ve lived here all my life,” he said.  “The view’s
better up the hill—for free.”  We climbed higher
and he told me he worked in a hotel in town.
He pronounced the painter’s name SEA-son,
not say-ZON. “Is that how he said it?” I asked.
“What–the name? Sea-son, say-zon,” he said,
as if it made a difference only to snobs.

“Up there is the promenade du peintres—
the walk of the painters,” he said,
“turn left–you’ll see it.”  I thanked him
and made my way up to the peak.
An older woman was climbing ahead of me,
slowly, so I turned and looked–
Sainte-Victoire stood there, a shell
against the sea of a sky. I thought I
knew then why his brush strokes seemed so rough.

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