Fragment 53

Turning Time to Flower

Make The Old Masters Modern
 

Left foot gone. Ten days left. *

What was that painting?

Ferdinand and Eugéne
so fidgety,
such poor models.

But Victorine
Ah! There was a beauty.
Weren’t you Victorine.
Do I have you to thank?
Was Tabes dorsalis your canvas
for my desire?

Those bathers, how they inspired
Antonin and I, that day.
Cotton clung to wet skin,
light absorbed, refracted
in soaked frivolity.

Where is poor Antonin now?
Victorine? Giorgione?

Ah! Giorgione was the one.
He lived skin. Ate light and
allegory. A picnic?
Yes, lunch or something related.

She looked out of the light
at me. Directly. Serenly.
Innocence painted her pose
those days. All I saw
were possibilities. And paint.

Make the old masters modern.
Take them out of the studio
into the open air. This was it,
this was my vision.
How I loved the trees, their shade
and green rapture. Nature
calling through the centuries.

I listened. I saw mid tones
disappear. I disrobed our beloved
Salon and they rejected me, but I,
Edouard Manet, pursued my Muse.

Look at me now. No left foot.
Thin as a paint brush and
sight, fading. Life fading. Memory
fading like the light at the end
of a days painting.

So much more I hoped
for; just one more evening
at Folies-Bergère.
What barmaids they have.

I am dying.
I know this. I can barely hold
this pen. This thought. This life.

My paintings tell what?
That I lived, painted, felt Nature
as a bird feels flight,
or a basket feels its weave?

I dressed my young brother, my brother-
in-law, but not Victorine. Her nakedness
was a joy to mix colours to. The brushes
loved her. I loved her.

Was it worth it? This pain says no,
but something beyond pain,
above doubt, takes me back
to that Luncheon on the grass;
and I feel their looks
still. Her gaze, his suggestion,
her wet cold cotton and
my little brother’s concern.

We must all die.
Through our art we endure.

* Manet’s gangrous left foot was amputated eleven days before his death from Tabes dorsalis.

Please Don’t Blame Yourself, Or Each Other- A piece of music
 

Picture by Alexandra Eldridge

Poem by Dean Pasch

Music by Ben Fisher

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