The Card Players

By: Billy Collins

Featured art: Playing Card by Piero Fornasetti

I’m glad Cezanne was not here in Key West
to set up an easel and paint
the card game I was in last night,
unless he was really good at depicting despondency.

Cezanne once said that a single carrot,
if painted in a completely fresh way,
would be enough to set off a revolution.
I’ll bet he was sitting in a café that day

where such observations are usually made,
but if I had been sitting in that café
across from Cezanne I would have quipped
“Maybe if Bugs Bunny were in charge of things,”

and I would have described in a fresh way
how the famous rabbit might be portrayed
pointing the mob to the Bastille with a carrot.

Beer and chips and more beer and chips
were served at the poker table,
but no carrot soup, a staple on every menu
in the bunny rabbit stories of Beatrix Potter

and a dish that would have warmed me
inside and out the way a good soup does
and made me feel much better
about losing all my money and then some.

But at least now I have found the answer
to the old question of who would you invite
to your ideal dinner party:
Paul Cezanne, Bugs Bunny, Beatrix Potter,

and okay, maybe at the last minute, Gore Vidal.

Billy Collins’s latest collection is Whale Day (Random House, 2020). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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