Rembrandt, A Portrait

There is a portrait by the man in Kansas City,
a minor portrait, a dashing of genius, exuding the light
he is known for, caught in the brown curls of a noble
young man who bears the face of my father.
We saw it there some years ago, when we wandered together.

That was surprising. Seeing John there,
in baroque garb, splashed out in oils,
his face nonetheless, and my father beside it,
smiling like a lottery winner, in awe of discovery.

The same brow-ridged forehead, same
brown crescent eyes that can’t help rejoicing.
The nose both splayed wide, and fleshy
above sensuous lips that fit me well, being a poet,
but lend the look of something earthly,
obscenely vulnerable to the face of a man
dedicated to the service of God.

There is little chance that we are related
to this Dutchman, if he is Dutch. Our blood
has been mingled from other sources;
German mostly with Native American and a fragment
of English and, for me at least, a dousing of scotch
courtesy of the blood of my mother.

But people traveled more freely then,
if they had the money. Without visa or bureaucracy
to bind up their hands. With the right accent, the gold
no one from that century would have had the trouble
I did, staying with my English husband;
The months of waiting and distress.

They took their gold and settled with it,
crossing oceans just discovered or well known,
bought the papers which held the land, and let
their roots grow into new soil. It was a time of adventure,
as this painted light wildly tells. For those with the gold.

John bought a print of this painting in the gift shop
of the Nelson Atkins Museum, titled: Unknown.
He hung it up in the guest room of their new house
in Louisiana, a place called Monroe. We call it

his Unauthorized Portrait. It is mounted beside
A real painting, done decades ago, in Rembrandt’s style,
new venturesome light, cast in amateur oils
which he commissioned from an artist in Virginia
at the start of his ministry, when he was younger
than I am now.

It has traveled across four seas; from North America,
to Scotland, the Philippines, and back again
by way of California and China,
traveling on bootstrings, voyaging in spite
of his straining threadbare wallet. Other belongings

lost, Broken or stolen, furniture smashed
so that only this portrait remains, carried across
the time stream. By now enough waters have flowed
out of his grasp that there isn’t any wonder
at the fact that neither portrait really looks
much like him at this late date. But when I stand

between them on my infrequent visits,
people who don’t expect much wonderment in life
have to lean hard on chairs, and suck in their breath
at the hard shock of recognition, gasping
at the works of the Masters, Old and New,
who I have joined in creative amalgamation,
recording and recorded, noble and artist, both ends together,
who cast their images on the seas of the world.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on February 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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