A short essay about the painter Monet
Monet goes out to paint.
‘It is a source of great joy and great suffering.’
Monet wants to paint what he sees.
It ought to be possible to see the River Seine.
Though everything we fix is already in the past.
No one can descend twice into the same stream of light.
Monet takes on what shimmers, steams,
the fleetingly beautiful, the dove-like neck.
A sharp knife he is unable to paint.
a brown ruler, a black cast-iron horizon.
He is besotted by snowflakes.
They melt when they are noticed.
The meadow’s black and white cattle, closely observed:
they are grazing rainbows.
The landscape is constantly changing.
‘I use up and waste a great deal of paint.’
A field of corn can be blue.
It is always harvest time for the one who grows light.
Poppy. Monet asks the children to fetch new canvases.
They come running like firefighters.
National Day, seen from the balcony:
A great waterfall of flags, human specks.
In Le Havre the sun chances to be red.
Monet rescues three very transient boats.
Round Belle-Ile the breakers are high.
Monet ties himself to the rock, trusses his easel with stones.
He now finds himself close to, and yet outside.
The dream: closer. To be buried in a bell-buoy.
There is no everlasting God. The altar dark.
Waves of light wash over the cathedral.
Truth flutters. The bricks tick like clocks.
‘An eternal torture and nothing else.’
The evening grows grey. The cathedral shrinks like a snail.
Monet lies sleepless. Where is the sun at night?
This is a whole life chasing a swarm of bees!
In poplars. In fishing boats. In haystacks. In parasols.
In the canals of Venice. In Dutch windmills.
In the parliament building in London.
In the cafés in Paris the theories of the day are consumed
by prismatic bodies, colour-playing countenances.
People start saying that Monet’s pictures are perfect,
Monet knows that his life is a failure.
It is impossible to paint what one sees,
write what one feels, eat what one hungers for.
His friends disperse. His wife dies.
‘I raise the walls higher around my land.’
What remains: the world’s light in the waterlily pond.
Then the eye refuses to see. Then the hand fumbles.
Claude Monet the painter will soon become blind.
He burns his last pictures of water.
And the water burns. Against the law of nature,
as a token of respect.