Portrait of Madame Monet on Her Deathbed

Monet confided to his journal, "All the while she was dying, I could not stop painting her face."
—Monet at Vétheuil

He will paint her again as grain;
now she is fog
the chantilly fog of the Seine:

avoiding no hint of the slow dissolve,
the bandage around her jaw,
rigor's cramp at the lip,
how death abraded and hollowed her,
while he remembered light.

Had he a failed heart
or a wholly transfigured eye
that knew her tonight as water
convulsion and sky?
that stared through layers of the body
at more than it took to die?

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from Half Wild: Poems by Mary Rose O'Reilley. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Rose O'Reilley.