THE ART HISTORIAN LOSES HER SIGHT


Looking in the mirror today,
I could still see my eyes well enough.
There is no difference from the outside,
no cloudy stain, not yet.

My first impulse, when I began to see
the failing, the patchiness, how it had crept
even across the foveae, was not fear.
Rather, its absence. I imagined
myself descending into the darkness,
which would no longer be dark,
my body and its surfaces
come alive, my ears awake, all of it
labyrinthine and sensual.

It took some thinking for the worry to enter in.
In truth, until that moment, sight had been
a wind-up toy. I did not really understand;
how unnecessary the memento mori.
Every still life, in its lushness and detail,
insists with each brushstroke that
anything this simple, anything made by eye
or hand, these undemanding shapes,
these few blended hues, these wedges of light
and highlight—these things can be taken away.

For a time after the diagnosis
I saw all things like that—clearly,
though my eyes were growing dim.
I now know that we cannot sustain
such attentiveness from day to day,
not even those of us who are losing
what becomes more beautiful with loss.
I need paintings now
of even the simplest things.

Each pigmented fruit rightly asks
Don’t you miss us already?