Lisel Mueller

(February 8, 1924)

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 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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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# 422 poem on top 500 Poems


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  • Gold Star - 10,094 Points * Sunprincess * (6/6/2014 3:05:00 PM)

    .............for me these are the beautiful lines in this write...enjoyed..
    ~ 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. ~ (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 474 Points Michelle Claus (5/8/2014 10:05:00 PM)

    Yes. I am with you heart and soul, Lisel Mueller and Claude Monet. Sings truth to me, through and through. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,782 Points Kevin Patrick (5/8/2014 7:33:00 PM)

    What can I say to convince you
    the Houses of Parliament dissolves
    night after night to become
    the fluid dream of the Thames?

    An effortless and unlimited imagination that can strain words like a mathematician wonderful work. True Art (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Joeline Rayment (5/8/2013 8:18:00 PM)

    Yes! this is beautiful... I always had issue with the many critics and historians who paint a picture of Monet's change of site as a limitation and a tragedy.
    Here Lisel has created a glimpse into the other side of wonder and possibilities that Monet had, and indeed choose to half keep.
    And such a brilliantly beautiful flowing poem as well. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,618 Points Ken E Hall (5/10/2012 9:51:00 PM)

    Magic in poetry brushed with invisible oils that become visible, only this can be done by an artist++++10+regards (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terri Kirby Erickson (5/2/2010 9:20:00 AM)

    Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller is such an exquisite piece of work, I wish I had written it, myself! I can't think of a higher compliment from one poet to another. It is so good I am almost speechless...which is HIGHLY unusual for me! Thank you so much for posting it. All the very best, Terri Kirby Erickson, terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terri Kirby Erickson (5/2/2010 9:20:00 AM)

    Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller is such an exquisite piece of work, I wish I had written it, myself! I can't think of a higher compliment from one poet to another. It is so good I am almost speechless...which is HIGHLY unusual for me! Thank you so much for posting it. All the very best, Terri Kirby Erickson, terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Leslie Audes (11/29/2009 6:59:00 PM)

    Wow! i love this poem! It reminded me of something i read recently in 'Proust Was a Neuroscientist'. It was a chapter about Cezzane, not Monet, but it delved into an artist's striving to catch the 'abstract'...this poem, with Monet's change in perception. I also love how Mueller showed Monet's situation to be a change in perspective - rather than something wholly negative. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 150 Points Poetry Hound (10/19/2006 5:52:00 AM)

    An exceptionally clever and gorgeous poem, lush with imagery and a terrific blend of the literal with the figurative. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 7 Points Max Reif (8/31/2005 7:33:00 PM)

    This is gorgeous!
    How can no one have written a comment?
    It's sublime!
    Into my Favorite Poems you go! (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »

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