Friday, January 7, 2011

Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller

Houses of Parliament, London, 1904 by Claude Monet

Monet Refuses the Operation

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 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, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from 'Second Language'. Louisiana State University Press, 1996.


I could post this poem every other day, over and over and over again. I've memorized it and still can't get enough of the amazing imagery and sheer beauty of it. It's a pure, perfect marriage of art and words...just magnificent!

Update:  (Thanks to those of you who told me the painting I had up with this post was not the Houses of Parliament by Monet.  I've corrected it and added the proper painting from Wiki.  Thanks, again!)

I highly recommend Ms. Mueller's book, "Alive Together: New & Selected Poems" which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1996.

Love & Blessings,


* said...

One of my favorite poems, a joy to see it here today.

Happy weekend!

Wine and Words said...

It takes altered vision to create art. Otherwise, it's just a reflection of what already is. I like something to be a little warped, or I just can't relate!

Love you!

ds said...

I adore this poem! Thank you so much for sharing it.

Serena said...

I can see why you love it so much. It truly is magnificent.

Have a great weekend!:)

Kelly said...

Yet another poetry collection I have, thanks to your recommendation.

Wonderful poem!!

Supposed to get pretty cold before the weekend is over. Stay warm!

Kass said...

I agree with you most whole-heartedly. This is quite wonderful.

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. ... Lord Byron


yes, i, too, see why you love it so much - a wonderful basket of words - just beautiful - there is always something new and delicious here in your little dragonfly world, lady - such a joy to visit!!! ;)

SparkleFarkel said...

What a lovely place, this blog page of yours be; I am enchanted! And the poetry, so beautiful! I like poetry, but my standard fare typically goes something like this:

O pointy birds,
O pointy pointy,
Anoint my head,
Anointy-nointy. –John Lillison, England’s greatest one-armed poet, The Complete Poems of John Lillison

Seriously, I love it here and will be back for more! Thank you, Miss Marion!

P.S. Love the music, too!

Janelle Goodwin said...

I'm not much of a "poetry person", but this poem changed my mind. It is pure melding of heaven and earth! Thank you, Marion!

Woman in a Window said...

(ha! - laughing at/with sparkle farkle)

The poem has such a gentle and entreating voice. I believe it to be Monet's, even if he didn't write it.

Who wants to be not broken? Just functional enough.

Love this one Marion. I even read it before. Could it be in that magic book you gave me?


quid said...

Thanks so much for the book recommendation, ML... and the poem is so beautiful!


Laurie said...

How wonderful! It took me 40 years of life to appreciate poetry -- what a waste, huh?

Courteney Rice said...

When I google search Monet's Houses of Par. series, I am unable to locate the name or number of the photo you posted. I remember seeing it in a highschool art class and doing a reproduction for an assignment on impressionism, yet it seems the internet favors the darker, less vibrant images in the "Houses" series. Any information about the specific name of the painting you posted would be welcome. Thank you.