Monet refuses the operation

26 Sep

Doctor, you say there are no halos 

around the streetlights in Paris 

and what I see is an aberration 

caused by old age, an affliction. 

I tell you it has taken me all my life 

to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels, 

to soften and blur and finally banish

the edges you regret I don’t see, 

to learn that the line I called the horizon 

does not exist and sky and water, 

so long apart, are the same state of being. 

Fifty-four years before I could see 

Rouen cathedral is built 

of parallel shafts of sun, 

and now you want to restore 

my youthful errors:  fixed 

notions of top and bottom,  

the illusion of three-dimensional space,  

wisteria separate  

from the bridge it covers.  

What can I say to convince you  

the houses of Parliament dissolve  

night after night to become  

the fluid dream of the Thames? 

I will not return to a universe  

of objects that don’t know each other,   

as if islands were not the lost children  

of one great continent. The world  

is flux, and light becomes what it touches,  

becomes water, lilies on water,  

above and below water,  

becomes lilac and mauve and yellow 

and white and cerulean lamps,  

small fists passing sunlight  

so quickly to one another 

that it would take long, streaming hair 

inside my brush to catch it. 

To paint the speed of light! 

Our weighted shapes, these verticals,  

burn to mix with air  

and change our bones, skin, clothes   

to gases. Doctor,  

if only you could see  

how heaven pulls earth into its arms  

and how infinitely the heart expands  

to claim this world, blue vapor without end. 

Lisel Mueller  

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