Monet Refuses the Operation
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the street lights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affection.
The above is the first part of a poem that goes on to describe why the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet might not want to have his failing eyesight “corrected” by cataract surgery.
How does one depict an object when physics has demonstrated that what appears permanent/solid is naught but a swirling mass of energetic atoms? There is nothing that does move constantly.
My own eyesight, my judgmental mind even, is still “too” capable of focusing things into sharp distinctions. Therefore, I practice squinting to purposely blur the world to better ascertain its essence; to fuse the separate parts into a seamless fuzzy whole.
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,
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 do not 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
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