Le Havre, 1872. Monet Stares Out His Window.
The fungal fog spreads, infecting dawn.
Damp, bellowing breaths. Gristle gray.
The monochrome weight of it.
The expanse of expectation.
A father’s ambition on the prowl,
gnawing his pier, his pylons,
invading his will to paint.
Père et fils. Pourquoi pas?
A future in salted beef.
Rolling casks of wine up gangplanks.
The fat, florid fingers of a grocer.
Paint on the side. A noble hobby.
In the distance, the lit cigar of dawn
rouses itself from the ashen haze.
Whose halyard lifts the orb?
Whose pulse throbs in front of him?
His palette knife mashes red into orange.
His brush dives beneath the char,
steals a blob of magma from this
unsigned glory hole.
Free fire. His for the taking.
Impression, soleil levant.
Plaster of Paris
Before Satie and Renoir. Before Lautrec’s posters
of the Molin Rouge. Before Picasso & Dali
cut & pasted time there,
was a mere mound—a rustic butte
ripe for the taking.
Her sedimentary layers delighted.
A Smith Island Cake of chalk, clay,
limestone & marl;
her natural perfume part lake, part sea.
For centuries before the Revolution
miners sliced vertical shafts
into her sides,
windmills crushed her gypsum
& ovens baked her rock bits
to a fine white powder,
to plaster of Paris.
She was the first to fashion faux—
whatever ambitious men
wanted her to be—
building facades, sculptural first drafts,
temporary arms & legs.
The lost bourgeois boys of la belle époque
were her last conquerors.
Jesus beards, pink-eyed & drunk,
they burrowed into her abandoned mines,
into her sacred catacombs,
reconstituted bone dust
with gutter water,
resurrecting her desire to please,
their fractured psyches
with the mortar of her lower caste.
Claude Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise”, courtesy Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris.