My friend Proudhon

I painted beaches, seasides, shores

or waves dashed on a harbour wall,

a mackerel sky, a signature,

to peddle to the gullible,

until the seasons ran aground

with darkly varnished fishing smacks

or chalk-white gulls soared to astound

the cliffs that threw their shadows back.

My friend Proudhon said property

was theft and so each rock and shell,

each stone turned over by the sea,

was never mine to lift or sell;

as if I’d stumbled on by chance,

light-fingered, dawn’s exuberance,

pickpocketing, as morning came,

sienna, cobalt, cadmium.

To artists who won’t know my name,

who never saw me scumbling through,

close to the edge in some cheap frame,

my smudged dishonesties of blue,

I leave this calotype of me

exposed by time, dressed for the lens,

white smock, straw hat, iron-grey goatee,

a charlatan old sunlight sends

through silver layers of halide

to haunt, accuse, release, appease

all those who, when the oils have dried,

might know themselves for forgeries.