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?

More by Mary Rose O'Reilley

Speaking In Tongues

I go to church every Sunday
though I don’t believe a word of it,
because the longing for God
is a prayer said in the bones.

When people call on Jesus
I move to a place in the body
where such words rise,
one of the valleys
where hope pins itself to desire;
we have so much landscape like that
you’d think we were made 
to sustain a cry.

When the old men around me
lift their hands
as though someone has cornered them,
giving it all away,
I remember a dock on the estuary,
watching a heron get airborne against the odds.
It’s the transitional moment that baffles me—
how she composes her rickety
grocery cart of a body
to make that flight.

The pine siskin, stalled on a windy coast,
remembers the woods
she will long for when needs arise; so
the boreal forest composes itself in my mind:
first as a rift, absence, 
then in a tumble of words
undone from sense, like the stutter
you hear  when somebody falls
over the cliff of language.  Call it a gift.

Passover

"Art is what remains when the pot is broken."
               —Chinese proverb


I know we are bound to the earth,
and the cracked heart, old terra cotta,
surrenders to vine.
	      
                          Listen—I've seen
wind stir the hair of the dead at Belsen,
growing like art from the lacing grass;

what is terrible, even, rises.
The ruined pot dreams of ignition,
each molecule coddles its flame.

Enough alphabet for a torah
sits on the tongue.  And all shards
from the winds' end gather again.

I know we are bound to the earth
by desire's green thread
or the milk snake's slippery pass.

Hepatica splits now from its leaf-wing.
Out of the vessel's wreck,
inwardness forms on the air

and that ghost tenderly enters
the soul of some mortal thing.