Sunday, November 20, 2005

Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisa Mueller

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 dissolves
night after night to becomethe 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.


This poem always gets to me. My vision is changing rapidly. I've transitioned from nearsightedness to the presbyopia of middle age, acquired cataracts and a detaching retina. The muscles in my eyes don't want to coordinate, and maintaining focus has become harder. I've become used to double vision, halos and blurriness. I fight them with all my concentration, with exercises meant to increase my ocular muscle control, with a conscious, thinking discipline that none but my closest friends can realize. I imagine now that Van Gogh had migraines because Starry Nights is how the world looks to me when I am in the grip of that vascular pain. The view out my back window each morning before I find the glasses is an impressionist masterpiece that changes with each season. I never thought to be grateful for it, for being allowed to see the world in a different way than the "real" way, the proper way.

I've often wished for a metaphorical new way to see things, the insight and vision to see the connections, the alternatives or the meanings I had overlooked.
I got a literal change, and I've mourned the loss of detail and the loss of certain conveniences. When I read this poem today, it was a reminder to be thankful for what can come.

4 Comments:

Blogger Theresa Williams said...

It's such a gift to be able to come back to loved poems again and again. This one is really a gem.

November 20, 2005 6:33 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Good lord...I LOVE this poem. Whenever I read really great stuff, I get that little voice in the back of my head that starts nagging, "...And what makes you think YOU're a writer?"

My eyes are sucking more and more all the time. The other night, I began to notice the haloes around streetlamps. Couldn't figure out if it was fog or my eyes. It bugs the **** out of me that my eyes are crapping out. For the first thirty years or so of my lfe, I could see perfectly. Kind of got used to it... But this poem...well, it makes me look at the deterioration of my eyesight in a slightly different light. Thank you. Lisa :-]

November 21, 2005 9:00 AM  
Blogger Virginia said...

I hope its ok to say this... that you understand what I mean.... I think you vision is quite good!
Peace, Virginia

November 22, 2005 8:33 PM  
Blogger Judith HeartSong said...

oh Cynthia........... I am thinking of you and sending love. Not too much time on the computer, ok?

November 22, 2005 8:45 PM  

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