The trombonist will blow unnoticed. Much is absurd:
a monkey, women in bustles, the brass player.
The bourgeoisie reflects in post-prandial
tranquillity… Purges, coronations in Paris,
the metropolis of revolution, where Haussman’s
boulevards were an imperial stockade…
For two sous, the ferry transports Georges Seurat
across the Seine to the Ile de La Grande Jatte. Two years’
preparation, observation of colour, shape,
application of theory delineate an
historical moment, which never occurred.
In shade, a man with a clay pipe reclines, so self-
absorbed he breathes – like the infantry officers
striding this way. The vistas of shadows, sunlight,
water – each coruscating perspective – catch
the city’s portentous murmur… On the Champ de Mars,
Dreyfus is humiliated – in the Place de Grève,
Marie Antoinette… Northward, Prussian howitzers
position. From the Vélodrome d’ Hiver, the Jews
are leaving for Birkenau. Against the high wall
of Pêre Lachaise, the remnant of the Communards
is shot. The citizens are culled in this city
of bloody principle and virtuous
mayhem – thousands in La Semaine Sanglante…
He was of his epoch: diligent, self-
regarding, a scion of the bourgeoisie –
mistress and son secreted in Montmartre.
He conjugated art with science, measured
the golden mean by the chemistry of colour.
He died young of a weakened heart and was buried
in Pêre Lachaise. Light records nothing. Only words
describe past as history. Lozenges of paint
are ignorant of irony, are the colour
of time. One late and sunlit afternoon, a child
follows a butterfly into oblivion.