Barbara Crooker: “Late Painting: Path Under the Rose Arches 1920-22”


     Claude Monet

Monet is only an eye—yet what an eye.

Paul Cézanne

And now, the flowering arches become a child’s scribbles,

broad scrawls, sprawls of color you can’t quite see:

braided ribbons of burgundy, navy, sienna, ochre, umber.

Each arch opens a passage, a tunnel, a path that leads on.

No more working en plein air, no more striving for the elusive

moment. No more series: stacks of wheat, a cathedral

in sunlight, trains at the station; no more smoke, fog,

the sun lying down on the sheaves.  So many ways

to say good-bye.  The short flicked brush strokes

that tried to catalog light’s changes now become gestures,

swoops and swirls.  Monet said My poor eyesight makes

me see everything in a complete fog, and I’m feeling this, too—

something not yet diagnosed, needing more light to read.

Typos flit on the screen, escape my scrutiny.  Lines fly off

the page, during a reading.  But I’m not ready to quit,

and neither was he.  Despite his growing cataracts,

he picked up a brush, having memorized the placement

of pigments on his palette, and started in on the water lilies,

les Grandes Decorations, from the garden of his memory,

removing the horizon, letting the flowers float

on the deep blue waterfall of radiant light.

Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian Americana and author of nine full-length books of poetry, including Some Glad Morning in the Pitt Poetry Series (2019). Her awards include the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, and The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

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