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THE LILY POND, THE JAPANESE BRIDGE by Claude Monet and Sal Buttaci


Painting by Claude Monet (1899); Poem by Sal Buttaci (1994)


Who could imagine what Monet was thinking

when he took his brush to this!

Ask him what inspired him 

and he will no doubt lie,

say "The Japanese Bridge"

or "The lily pond: the way the lilies

sit on the brown river" or

"The mood I was in, the feeling 

I have captured in this work."


It is true Monet one afternoon 

came to the bridge,

to this lily pond, 

an easel under his arm,

paints and brushes in a wooden box.

For a moment he surveyed the scene,

thought it peaceful,

but would have moved on 

had he not heard a frog croak

in the intricacy of the lily pads,

stretch its legs, leap into the air

and dive into the brown river water.


The painter stood there,

concentric water circles 

like the spin of a child's pinwheel

mesmerizing him.

Only seconds before 

nothing moved here,

he thought to himself.

How peaceful!  It is already a painting,

another scene for memory:

The arc of the bridge, 

the unmoving lilies,

the foliage, the hanging trees,

the water reflecting the stillness--


I could let it be,

walk away, look elsewhere. 


Monet waited for the frog to surface

but before long the quiet returned

and it was once again as it had been.

Already the painter was laying down his coat

on dry grass, mentally mixing the paints

before setting them down on his easel.

His hands trembled: a good sign.


He would not leave here until

he captured on canvas what once 

he thought did not need capturing.

"There is no stillness anywhere!" 

he said out loud 

as though it were revelation.

"Life does not stand still.

 Within the peaceful stirs movement,"

he said, brushing down the grey undercoat,

stroking in the shapes and forms and movements

of yellow, green, and brown. 


Not until he put his paints away,

and shook the thistle dust from his jacket,

did Claude Monet hear again the plunk and splash,

the brown waters wriggling to life again,

the floating separation of lily pads.

From the water only the head 

of a bullfrog re-emerged,

its tongue unfolding beneath a swarm

of hovering dragonflies.




The above poem first appeared in my book Impressions: 13 French-Painting Poems (Saddle Brook, NJ: New Worlds Unlimited), 13-14.

Salvatore Buttaci’s two collections of flash fiction 200 Shorts and Flashing My Shorts are both published by All Things That Matter Press and are available in book and Kindle editions at  

His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems

Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life. 

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