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Waiting to Sail (On Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81)
by Carole Mertz

Fourteen figures, (Is this a story
with too many characters?)
gathered quay-side
for the boating trip
to follow the luncheon party.

He painted the wide
amiable scene of men
and women straw-hatted,
beribboned, and tall men
top-hatted, wrapped in an aura

of summer-glazed camaraderie,
at leisure and lingering with wine
a table beneath the orange-
striped canopy. Flirting. Not caring

if the little dog licked
the chin, or the cloth
rumpled. The surprise? All
was organized for pleasure, all
staged by the master himself.

There's laughter and music
in the air. "Another glass, Gustave?"
We linger, waiting to sail.


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