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Rembrandt

John Reibetanz
From:   Midland Swimmer. London, Ontario: Brick Books, 1996, pp. 60-61


I.

The lady takes in the message
and so do we, but not the same.

Her message comes from David, via
a letter, ours from life

via Rembrandt. The letter
is not real, and she not really

Bathsheba, but Hendrickje Stoffels
posed for her lover's painting.

II.

The lady is not real
but once was. Rembrandt used her real

flesh as a messenger to send
the image of a fable.

Her flesh catches our eye
more than his fable, her dimpled left

breast a sign we recognize
of advanced cancer.

III.

It must have seemed an odd
love-gift, being painted into

a fable of betrayal--he no
David, she no Bathsheba--

yet Rembrandt's gift for darker
pigment caught a real Goliath

beyond the slingshot's arc, a real
betrayal in the pose.

IV.

He could not read it, though
he must have kissed it lovemaking.

He loved her, as he loved the art
that sent her image past

her life to us. They loved
in ignorance of what was real,

her body blindly nursing, his eye
blindly immortalizing it.

V.

His eye has focused ours
above the sheet of parchment, above

the body that caught David's eye,
onto her thought's cast.

It takes in the betrayals
of letter, flesh, canvas; it burns

and puts their white lies in the shade
with light, as from a fire.



John Reibetanz's works copyright © to the author.


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