Monday, March 7, 2011

To Soften and Blur

~ Space Center, Orlando, 2006 ~
Some have called Sam's photo "blurry"
but I call it "impressionism" (that's a mom for you)!

Claude Monet
in his garden
in Giverny
with an unidentified visitor.
New York Times, 1922.

Monet Refuses The Operation
Doctor, you say there are no halos
around the streetlights of 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 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.

Lisel Mueller (b. 1924)
German born American poet
Pultizer Prize for Poetry, 1997

When I sent my brother Dave a copy of this poem, he wrote back: "I suppose the same could be said for the strange and often comical and interesting things that I hear when people speak to me. They assure me that I am missing the point and have not heard them correctly. I in turn assure them that whatever their intent, my perception is much more entertaining. Then accursed technology is plugged into my head and all returns to its cold and logical correctness with no whimsy."

A few additional points to ponder:

Check out this interesting poetry blog for commentary on
"Monet Refuses the Operation"

"Monet Refuses the Operation" appears as the prologue to
Anne Lamott's book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

To read Lisel Mueller's poem, "Moon Fishing," see my post:
"Many Many Moons"

Contemporary Watercolor of Monet's Garden
See more at

My friends Victoria & Steven
Standing on the bridge at Monet's Garden, 2012


  1. Don't know if I'm commenting twice. But that poem is absolutely beautiful; and as always, Kitti finds the literature that touches me to my core.