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ARTIST : Claude Monet (1840~1926)

PAINTING : Camille Monet sur son lit de mort  (translated : Camille Monet on her death bed)

EXHIBITION : Musee d’Orsay (Paris ; summer 2007)




Aiming his medical camera beneath my sterile sheets,
he swabs some protein specks, waits as they turn

to white, to the pearly lace of cancer.

This scene should not be happening~~I still adore
my husband, our daughter is due for vaccines

here it is: a doctor who invites me to watch along
as he takes a final sample. Cells as lovely as

the gauze, en blanc, shrouding Camille Monet.


by Therese L. Broderick



About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

One response »

  1. poetryaboutart


    My goal when composing any poem is to craft a passage of spoken language which is supersaturated in both sound and sense.


    In this poem, I selected many words especially so they would sing together: “beneath” and “sheets” ; “turn” and “pearly” ; “cancer” and “happening” ; “adore” and “our daughter” ; “vaccines” and “invites me” ; and the vowels of the last two lines ; the gauzy “z” sound of “cells” and “as” and “gauze.”

    I chose to open the poem with the trochee “Aiming” instead of the alternative iamb “He aims” in order to attack the first syllable with a stronger stress, similar to the targeting of any kind of aiming. I juxtaposed two strong stresses, “specks” and “waits” instead of the alternative “then waits” , in order to make the reader halt a bit in the middle of the line, as if forced to wait a moment.


    In this poem, I am comparing the doctor to Monet who painted as he watched the dying Camille. The doctor watches through a video camera, and handles swabs as a painter might handle a paint brush. I deliberately used the word “husband” to contribute another layer to that comparison. The phrase “final sample” is meant to evoke the finality of death, or the final touches put on a painting. I use the title “biopsy” because it, too, evokes the “optics” of the medical procedure. I chose to use the phrase “due for vaccines” as a way to evoke the mother’s protective anxiety not only over her own health, but over that of her daughter, another embodiment of Camille; in addition, the vaccination needle also resembles the instruments of a biopsy, or the brush of a painter. The imagery of “sheets” in the first line is repeated by the “lace” in the middle of the open, then by the “shroud” of the last line.


    Yes, I did have a biopsy. Yes, the doctor filmed it with a camera, inviting me to watch along on the screen display. Yes, he told me that cells turning white might mean cancer. Yes, they turned white, even though my final diagnosis was not cancer. Yes, I have a husband and a daughter who recently received a series of vaccinations.

    The doctor was extremely solicitous, capable, gentle, patient, and professional. This poem is not meant to demean his performance. I felt almost no pain during the procedure, or afterwards. I had no troublesome complications.


    This poem went through many drafts. Contrary to my usual process, my early drafts were not ekphrastic, but focused instead on the personal experience. Later drafts became ekphrastic as I brought Camille Monet into the poem. In some drafts, I included references to many kinds of white in several paintings by Sargent, Cassatt, and Monet. I finally decided to allude to only the Monet painting.


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