The Colourist of Artificial Fish
The trick is understanding line of sight:
the upper is mud-olive like the river
bed; the under, shimmering and bright,
the newly sun-hit surface of the water.
I am Seurat—my dots are scales, the play
of light on something moving, sinuous;
the dark is stippled black; two jet eyes say
"I see"; a single brushstroke is a grimace.
That's how to animate a wooden ﬁsh.
But how to paint the valved thing of your heart
to show the ﬂutter of its damson ﬂesh?
Or how articulate the mermaid swish—
the muscle gripping, slippery and salt—
of that deep place whose quickening amazed?
* One of the occupations given in response to the 1881 census, as preserved by the London Genealogical Society.