Marc Sheehan

 

 

GRAND HAVEN, MICHIGAN, RECREATES "A SUNDAY AFTERNOON ON THE ISLAND OF LA GRAND JATTE" 

 

We’re arrayed on our riverbank

sloping down to the channel

in more or less the same configuration

as Seurat painted his calm weekenders

using the tip of his brush

to dot the canvas with oils.

 

A little fog would help to create

that signature gauziness

which haunts all his work.

But it’s sunny, warm.

We’re sweating a little bit

as the photographer fiddles

 

with settings and F-stops, or whatever

photographers fiddle with now

that everything has gone digital.

Probably there’s a mode to make

everything look Pointillist,

or a filter in Photoshop for that.

 

Our frieze here is more DIY –

umbrellas make do for parasols,

a leashed dog is a small, yappy monkey.

Although the women don’t have bustles,

remarkably, a sailboat is a sailboat,

and the grass is grass. The sky, sky.

 

Toward which the photographer is now climbing

on a stepladder to better capture

faux Parisians in gentle contemplation

of our minute constituent parts,

our atoms, protons and electrons,

our photons, neutrons and pions,

 

our gravitons, muons and god particles

all moving at the appropriate

speed at which to give

the semblance of mass and color,

give the appearance we actually

belong in this tableau that is close

 

to the real thing – assuming you squint

and have suspect aesthetics. Yet

in our own charmingly quarky way we embody

more heartbreakingly than the original

the ineffableness (the inevitableness?)

of being so beautifully alone together.

 

 

PLAYLIST

 

Mortality is alive and well

judging from two recently dug graves

awaiting their first, last and only tenants.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m listening

to a Grateful Dead set on my earbuds,

a podcast of a concert from the '90s –

a time when Jerry was clearly in decline,

halfway to being ashes in the Ganges.

It’s a beautiful morning to be alive

and power-walking to postpone my own

journey into the unknown, the sky blue

and dotted with the kind of white clouds angels

would perch upon if angels existed.

The Dead are playing “Friend of the Devil,”

a version slower than on their album

American Beauty and I really

wish they’d speed it up a little bit

because I’m settling into a saunter

and thinking about people I once knew

and wondering if they’re among the living.

I could say I’m grateful myself to be,

but that seems pedestrian, doesn’t it?

One of the recently, dearly departed

has eternally joined her husband who died

twenty years back according to their stone.

I should probably take a different route,

but there’s never any traffic in here

and once I emerge on the other side

I’m only a short distance from the lake

and a great view of the pier and light house.

Amazing, really, that I’m able to have

hundreds of albums of music with me

on this gizmo the size of a matchbook.

So, who knows, taking it with me might be

an option. Oh, not my body or bank

account, but love, desire, understanding...

that kind of thing. And anyway I’m tired

of schlepping around boxes of vinyl,

sleeper sofas, books I’ll never read again.

The artificial flowers are reminders

that if you never live, you never die.

Thank you all, you were a great audience.

But I have a target heart rate to hit

and whole bouquets of sins yet to commit.

 

Marc J. Sheehan is the author of two full-length poetry collections - Vengeful Hymns from Ashland Poetry Press, and Greatest Hits from New Issues Press.  His chapbook Limitation to the Salutary Effects of Upper Midwestern Melancholy is forthcoming from Split Rock Review.  He lives in Grand Haven, Michigan.