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Martin Willitts Jr.

Water Lilies

(Based on the series of paintings of Water Lilies by Claude Monet. Monet’s Water Lilies are really about his love for Alice Hoschede who was married to someone else at the beginning of the series, and then married Monet after both their spouses died.)

          1. The Water Lilies series begins, 1897

Our relationship begins with lilies
rising from our unpleasant circumstances
each morning in search of new first light.
Life is muddy as the land I have purchased.
This is where we will begin, like a few lilies,
for out of nothing, will come something.
This barren landscape will resonate with lush flowers
like all couples first holding hands.
This is how it is meant to be. This is how it will be.
Right now there is reflection of the water lilies.
But just wait! They will arrive like love arrives:
in its own good time. I want it to rise out of the water
like the lilies. This rising will take time.
All good things do.

          2. Monet goes on long absences to painting his many series paintings

“If you only knew how much it pains me to see you suffer like this. Your letter this morning upset me so much I wondered whether I shouldn’t come back to you” – Monet to Alice

I know I must return, but the light too
is a lover needing my attention.
Light curves like a woman kneading bread.
The way light affect the landscape
is lilies lowering into night waters.
I will return like they will return.
This much is certain.
Just watch for them.
This is how you will know I will be back.

          3. Water Lilies, 1903

The water lily is feminine,
fertile with a bulb-shaped belly
If I could hold this,
then I could hold the shape of love.
Now the flowers speak to me.
They tell me what I need to hear.
A woman can only know these things.
Her speech is pregnant and white.
When she disappears at the end of the day
like the lilies leave with their white gowns trailing
into their bed, she looks back to make sure I am looking
with the same intensity as I did the first time.
And I am.
The house begins its own white music.

          4. Alice dies, 1904

What good are the lilies if they die?
I cannot sob green waters.
I cannot rake the tangled vines apart without missing you.
What good is the well-kept garden
when there is no one to share it with?
Surely it will fall to ruin like me.
Surely the sun will not paint anymore light.
I am numb as a bridge with no one crossing.
My hands are two dead lilies.
What good is sight when there is no one to see?

          5. Water Lilies, 1924

Like the lilies, you cannot keep me down,
I will rise, singing. Now the colors are bolder.
They vibrate in my song with its own whiteness.
The memory of my past love may not be clear
and I may have gone on without holding her
like the pads hold the white flowers in their grasp,
but I am singing with new visions.
I am one with the pond.
I am temporal.
I am a song from the lilies.

©2009 by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin Willitts Jr. is a Senior Librarian in New York. After a ten year break from writing, he has recent publications in Pebble Lake Review, Hurricane Blues (anthology), Slow Trains (chapbook),, Haigaonline, Bent Pin, 5th Gear, and others. He has a fifth chapbook, Falling In and Out of Love (Pudding House Publications, 2005), an online chapbook, Farewell--the journey now begins (, 2006), a full length book of poems with his art The Secret Language of the Universe (March Street Press, 2006), and he has another chapbook, Lowering the Nets of Light, from Pudding House Publications. He won the 2007 Chenango County Council of the Arts Individual Artist Award, which he used to edit a poetry anthology about cancer Alternatives to Survival. He also judged the 2007 poetry chapbook contest.

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