At forty-three you found a house in Normandy
for eight children, a woman-friend
and yourself still hungering for light.
You walked the banks of the Seine and Epte,
past poplars, fields, haystacks
to observe a chromatic multitude—
things not things but tips of brilliance
refracting through the prismatic air
and the vast blue space waiting in you—
your mind learning with each change in brilliance.
The wheeling sun made you shout: a child ran
for more canvases to get it all down
and your brush dipped, flecked, and stroked—
“La Seine . . . elle est pour moi toujours nouvelle . . .”
—early morning river mist,
shrubs and trees made rootless, cloudlike
by the way you saw them: hovering over
their  reflections on the slightly stirring water;  
and searching sky, verdure, light,  
and water which reflected all  
you walked along the outer rim of your soul,
the first circle of a spiral growing smaller,
(towards invisibility, away from light
or so you thought: watching sunlight on your
dead wife’s face shift over the one
dark central fact, you quaked).

You travelled widely, yet
through the years, more and more,
you circumscribed your realm of subjects
by the boundary of your garden,
had a pond built on the grounds
(despite the townspeople and their laws: “Merde
pour les naturels de Giverny, les ingenieurs!”)
then suffered another loss—Suzanne, one of the eight,
a beautiful young girl, not your own
but by you cherished, died—

But the artist forms his own central fact;
your axis mundi, pivot of reality, was
the water lily pond
whereon you shone
your love of life and of the sun’s
deep infusions of color into
swirls, discs, globes of petals:
the lilies the only forms with weight in a
weightless world of pure reflection
as they floated on
water and its dream of sky and trees.

As you grew old into a wide-brimmed
straw hat and great prophet’s beard,
your vision demanded the proper measure—canvases
on rolling easels—twelve by six feet
and by putting three together
you told us that what mattered
was the sun within each mind
behind human eyes which
hold your lilies deathless and shining.

Did I say you had the sun inside you—
that you were the source of
your brilliant transformations,
or did you reflect what is always there
in the vibrating air if only we could see it?

One day I turned a corner on the city street
and saw the late afternoon sky
sparsely mottled with clouds
reflecting the sun setting
behind a dark uneven jagged line,
a sky reflecting a dimming source of
gold, and red, and purple,
and for one brief moment, Monet,
while looking up
I saw the brilliant contents of your mind.