Impression

By Peter Halstead

Only corners of my eye
see the meaning of the sky—

not a telescopic vision,
but the blur of imprecision,

the endless blue whose depth and range,
on close inspection, don’t change,

whose atmospheric core of being
rewards the slightly hard of seeing,

like an ornithologist, whose blind
succeeds by being ill-defined,

or the morning cries of verbal birds
whose meaning comes from hints of words,

like the orange specimen that woke us,
a Monet when out of focus—

a respite from a world whose vice
lies in being too precise,

a pastel universe that passes
when we yawn and put on glasses.

August 4th, 2000

Explanation

This poem came to me virtually complete upon learning that Monet was short of seeing and chose not to wear glasses while he painted. It occurred to me that, like the Chinese painters whose seemingly fictitious depictions of Karst mountains were in fact quite realistic, in fact the Impressionists painted exactly what the myopic always see, the world being much more romantic without glasses.
I wrote it standing up in New York in about five minutes. Ina, our housekeeper for over 20 years, arrived in the middle of it, and I was worried about the person-from-Porlock syndrome (where Coleridge forgot the rest of his Kubla Khan opium dream poem when a man from Porlock knocked on his door), but I managed to return to where I was. This was the beginning of being able to write in the middle of a meeting, or surrounded by kids and noise. Poetry is born not of silence, but noise and desperation.