poetry 6 : thank god for the disordered eye

Monet_rouen_am 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

Turns out that as he aged, Monet developed cataracts. An affliction? Or a vision?

Who is to say what we see? Why so intent on correction?

Thank god for the disordered eye. 

[in celebration of National Poetry Month]


  1. oh dear, for i must respectfully disagree!

    having just got my first pair of corrective lenses in 6 years (because i couldn’t afford them until now) – and fully realising just how much my eyesight had deteriorated in that time… i must say that the difference in clarity is staggering, and i have missed much. once again i can see the dear individual leaves on trees, i can appreciate the texture of the skin on my hands again, i can actually identify my friends and note their expressions instead of when they are only 5 feet away…

    so the lens-correction allows me to see the details without frowns and headaches and squinting, which has a few benefits as you might imagine.

    but… if i’m inspired to have a monet-inspired view of the world – which has its own delights of blurred and merged and muddled edges (as well as bumping into things), it’s only a matter of peering over the top of my frames!

    so do i have the best of both worlds?

  2. Lovely, lovely poem. Thanks for this series, Patti.

  3. Beautiful! My computer sits in front of a window overlooking the back yard. I can take off my glasses and see my own softened version of the huge maple there. The tiny just opening leaves a mist of yellow green against the blue of the sky. If I had nothing to do but paint, this could be all I need to see. How can I apply this to my view of the world I occupy? To soften the edges of pain and anger so they may blend with love and light. Thanks for getting me started today! XO

  4. Years ago I kept up with my poetry but these days I am so out of touch and I so love coming here to read these gems that you find for us, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. just beautiful…


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