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Monet Refuses the Operation -- Lisel Mueller

Guest poem sent in by Joe Riley
(Poem #1737) Monet Refuses the Operation
 Doctor, you say that 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 changes 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
I came across this amazing poem in an anthology and I am surprised that it
isn't known better.  Just wanted to share.  A web version, with graphics and
sound, can be found at:


[Martin adds]

I agree with Joe - this is an absolutely fascinating poem, and I thank him
for introducing me to it. I must admit I had some doubts as to how well
Mueller could fulfil the poem's initial promise, but I needn't have worried-
the execution never faltered, the images built up atop one another without
ever getting repetitive (no easy feat, that), and the poem was permeated
with that unique magic that distinguishes Monet's paintings. Wonderful stuff


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