For the past few years I’ve needed glasses for reading and I wear them, sometimes, for driving—especially at night. I’ve never had to wear them all the time, though, and can’t quite get used to the idea that maybe I should.
Lately, I find myself misreading posters and headlines because of my less than fabulous vision. A few recent examples:
“E-mails show chubby IURC, Duke.”
Instead of “E-mails show clubby IURC, Duke.”
“Onward Christian Monguls.”
Instead of “Onward Christian Moguls.”
“Can I receive joints?”
Instead of “Can I relieve joints?
The thing is, I kind of like my versions better. It amuses me to think of chubby bureaucrats and CEO’s, Christian marketers with the brutal savvy of Ghengis Khan, an arthritis sufferer seeking marijuana to ease her pain, someone hyperventilating over punctuation.
Okay, it’s a stretch—but it occurred to me that this shift in my spelling universe due to growing older is a little bit like this poem I love, in which Lisel Mueller imagines Monet explaining to the doctor why he’s decided against a cataract operation.
MONET REFUSES THE OPERATION
Doctor, you say there are no halos
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,
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
The world flux.
And astonishing, no matter what your eyes reveal.