Visiting Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago – Poetry by Gaby Bedetti

Georges Seurat – Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

The lady lingers in the company of a pet monkey
and her suitor in a top hat, walking stick propped
under an arm. Young and old recline on the grassy bank.
Some stand straight as the naked tree trunks.
A little dog leaps suspended in air.

A woman wearing a flower-covered hat
extends a fishing pole over the water
while a man plays his bugle. Not even
the child jumping rope turns to listen,
each figure lodged in their thoughts.

A grandfather hunches under his umbrella.
Smoking a pipe, a man, propped on his arm,
relaxes on his one day off. Two soldiers
stand at attention, mute. From a distance, they hear
a coxswain direct his rowers.

For a long time, the lady stands lulled by the afternoon.
She faces the river under an umbrella
deep in the green shadow of a tree.
Only a little girl dressed in white
is sunlit and facing the viewer.

As a girl, I would greet strangers on my way to school,
our eyes meeting. Back then, I would wonder
why the couple in the car ahead, family friends
who had joined us on a long walk,
never once turned to speak to each other.


About the Poet

Gaby Bedetti is Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, photos, and translations have appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Typehouse, Los Angeles Review, New Delta Review, and World Literature Today. She is assembling a co-translation of the selected poems of Henri Meschonnic.

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