1. Monet Refuses the Operation

    Doctor, you say there are no haloes
    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.


    By Lisel Mueller,

     
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