Very Far Back in This Life

Brenda Hillman

Rublev, the great painter of icons,
  is buried under one of his own churches;
infinity stretches in all directions. Under
            the bricks, he hears the carriages move.
Visitors from countries stand in the square;
      below their feet, the demons pass
back & forth between the worlds . . .

The icon watches as they are struck dumb
      by the brown facility of paint.
Color has lost its innocence.
     Russia is an enormous plain
            over which wild energy rides.
      Christ looks sickly & helpful,
raising two fingers. His eyes have apostrophes,
cloves of garlic. An artist is never your enemy.

How to interpret the painting through
  circles of violence that made it. It moves
            much more slowly than you do;
it always has something to conceal.
  A painting shows you how to breathe.
            History is still: it’s the wood horse
burning on its side. A dome
sacrifices itself to a bell; its ringing
  swells & falls, a maybe yes
            & maybe no that follows you— 

Read more poems from Fall 2013 by downloading the free Amazon digest version of The Kenyon Review here.

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