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I would like to paint the way a bird sings.

--Claude Monet

Monet Refuses the Operation

--by Lisel Mueller, Sep 06, 2021

Image of the WeekDoctor, 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 dissolves 
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 was a German-born American poet, translator and academic teacher. Her family fled the Nazi regime, and she arrived in the U.S. in 1939 at the age of 15. She worked as a literary critic and taught at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College and Goddard College. [Wikipedia] 


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