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Monet Refuses the Operation

I came across this provocative poem today by Lisel Mueller. It reminded me life is less about certainty and more about uncertainty. Today, I find beauty and wisdom in the uncertainty that I refused to acknowledge in my youth. Then, I desired an impossible certainty in life I could not be promised. When I sat down and wrote today and post, I was certain it would be a one of my poems, but this one spoke to me more clearly. It found a space to enter my world that I would not allow for in my youthful days. In uncertainty, questions are unanswered and answers have a hazy quality similar to haloes around streetlights in Paris. What does the future hold? What a beautiful question which is only be answered moment by moment.

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 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.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school . My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

25 responses »

  1. Oh, yes, this is a beautiful poem celebrating the change we experience as we age. Wonderful post.

  2. Paradoxically, uncertainty is the only thing we can be certain of in life! xoM

  3. Thought you would appreciate this also great article

  4. This reminds me of the story I heard about James Thurber. His apartment overlooked Central Park in New York and as he looked out his window one afternoon he noticed something and called his wife to the window. “Look at that lovely stone lion they’ve put in the park. I swear it wasn’t there yesterday. It’s beautiful.” His wife looked, and responded, “Put your spectacles on James. It’s just a crumpled brown paper bag.” Thurber stopped wearing his spectacles.

  5. ~the world is flux and light becomes what it touches~ love this!

  6. Oh Ivon, this is glorious – thank you

  7. What a great piece. I love talking in personas. It gives one a flexibility to put into mouths what were on surmises and make them live.>KB

  8. Lead Our Lives

    Truth seeker that I am, your intro resonated and reminded me as I read the poem that the challenges of youth for many of us, are the thick crusty filters that obstruct our view and access to the truth that we more readily see in the later season of our lives. Lovely post.

  9. I love this poem Ivon. The world is in flux, constantly changing as we daily grow old in it.


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