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.
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 won the 2016 Split Rock Review poetry chapbook contest. He lives in Grand Haven, Michigan.