Sunday, March 15, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

(part I-lost-count in an ongoing series)

I'm in San Francisco, a city I fall in love with every time I visit. Yesterday, I toured the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I don't go to art museums that often; sometimes they wear me out, physically and intellectually. But my visit did inspire me to post this next poem, by Lisel Mueller. I hope you like it as much as I do; the first time I heard this poem (I heard a recording of Mueller reading it while interning for The Poetry Center of Chicago), it almost made me cry.

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say that there are no halos
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.

1 comment:

J.A.G. said...

I love the word "cerulean."