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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nouvelle 55: Portrait of Mary Magdalen, or a Poet

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Saint Mary Magdalen at the Sepulchre
by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Mary has just now seen Christ, and the artist paints
radiance reflected on her cloak from the risen Lord,
while Mary's face is in shadow


Portrait of Mary Magdalen, or a Poet

A response to 'Mary Magdalen at the Sepulchre'
by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

A veiled face,
cloves cloaked in a sleeve.

Fragrance,
like late summer gold,

leans into the cold of tombs.
Interior lights

– not the apotheosis of the sun—
are the radiants you seek.

Day is where you are,
everything else, shadow.

Break the clove’s shell.
Rub the dark powder

painting your skin,
and smell your breath.




Nouvelle 55 is a poem or fiction in 55 words, based on a piece of art.

Poetry should be heard.
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24 comments:

Maureen said...

You've created a lovely contrast between the "cold of tombs" and the intimacy of rubbing cloves on the skin.

The Solitary Walker said...

I've had to do a bit of research here about Mary Magdalene and cloves - which has led to Sophia and gnosticism and much else. So thank you for that. And thank you for this succinct, wondrous and darkly sensual poem. Doesn't that Nouvelle 55 format concentrate the mind?

Friko said...

I am not sure I see what you see: her face betrays uncertainty and a slight touch of insecurity to me.

Not looking at the picture I can admire your poem and give it its due respect.

Montag said...

Wow... the cold of tombs is like cloves or mint that dilates the blood vessel and leaves your skin a-tingle!

hedgewitch said...

My first reading I was thinking of the spices used in embalming, the scent like the glow picked up by the Magdalen's skin--now I'm enjoying a fancy that the whole thing is about turning the trappings of death into life--don't wake me up--I like it. ;_) I also attempted to do a little googling about this and ended up on a wonderful Alchemy page with essential oils I've been looking for for ages, so thanks for that, too. Enjoyed this in all ways.

Louise Gallagher said...

You know that feeling when you read something and your heart sighs and you feel your body slip deeper into repose and everything grows still and you know. You just know.

This gave me that.

who said...

Now those are poem!

"not the apotheosis of the sun"

and you let both titles show, which still to this day is still a know know :-)

you really do an extraordinary job finishing the sentences spoken by great paintings. She looks like she is thinking about what happened, how that could have happened. She knows it is that cloud, she just watched it as a stone orb setting atop the pedestal that looks like a vase. Glow and then float away and once in the sky the glow took on as a shape, she saw it turn to cloud. Even the Spirit of the elephant, judicial observer against the wall is having trouble believing it not being able to takes his eyes off the pedestal.

and I think your right, I am sure she does understand, but believing it takes a bit longer to come, but she does understand.

Both poems are excellent Ruthi

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. I think of cloves as a warm spice, though they also have an astringent quality.

Ruth said...

Robert, this is my second dense poem in a week, and I'm afraid I ask a bit much of readers. So thanks a lot for your enthusiasm.

Actually, I was imagining what spices MM might have taken to dress the body, and cloves came to mind. I know/knew nothing about any legendary connection between cloves and MM. Really, Sophia and gnosticism? This is exciting, and I hope you will share links! I googled for a quick minute and didn't find much yet, but I see that Hedgewitch also found promising leads. This is great, because MM and I go way back . . . though she never told me about cloves, that tight-lipped "hussy" . . . oh wait, she really wasn't a prostitute after all, was she, that was just some dastardly early church men trying to sully her reputation, her recompense for being so close to Christ ...

Ruth said...

Friko, truthfully, in this poem I was responding to what I had read at the National Gallery in London's notes about this painting (though the painting housed there is a different rendering than this one that is at the Getty in L.A.; in the London one her cloak is silvery, not gold), about the reflection on her cloak being from the risen Christ. I agree with you that her face looks timid, and rather than being descriptive of what she appears to be, I see the poem more as a wish that she might find her light within herself, which is what I feel is all our work, poets and non-poets alike. Thanks so much for your honesty, as always, and for your kindness too.

Ruth said...

Montag, a whole new tomb of worms opens up!

Ruth said...

Hedge, I like your takes, both the first, and the fancy about turning the rituals of death into life, a lot! I've always loved this story, I am realizing even now. As a Sunday School kid, this one, of all the stories around the crucifixion, was such a delight. It contains all the mystery and surprise that a child hopes for in books and movies. She thought she'd find her great friend's dead body, but instead, the tomb was empty, the stone rolled away, and he appeared in full regalia.

Anyway. Now you and Robert have me curious about the links you found regarding MM and cloves. I'm excited about that, because as I told him, I have a long-term fondness for MM, and I knew nothing about cloves being her "thing." I do love essential oils, and I'm about to make some home made cleaner; I think cloves are in order this time, to replace the previous rosemary ...

Ruth said...

Louise, thanks for that. Forgive me if I reprise what your comment reminds me of, which is Linda-Shoreacres comment about my poem "Petty sorrows of the Ego" in which she said "little deaths" in French connote a whole other meaning . . . les petites morts .... (look it up if you don't know).

Ruth said...

Thanks, Dusti, I like following your thoughts in response to the painting and my poem. It's incredible to think how each of us gets a unique feeling, image, story from what we see and hear.

Like I said to Friko, I was responding more to the light reflecting off her, implying that another was the source of light, than I was to her face per se, or what I see in the painting. It was the idea that what we have received through the millenia via religion is God as Other, and I see it so differently now. I believe God is within, and this poem was like a manifesto, for myself personally, and as a portrait of a poet.

Thanks for your close reading, my friend.

steven said...

ruth - it's the way she holds her body inside the unformed golden gown . . . her face filled with understanding and then . . . curiousity . . . the double-edged sword of knowing and not wanting to know. subtleties abound. steven

Margaret said...

The color in the photo is what one sees first but then her face comes in to focus. It's almost as if she is looking to see what my reaction is - I see a lot of curiosity in he face. And her left hand sticking out of her robe is as if she almost wants to point towards the white vase.

The line that grabs my attention is: leans into the cold of tombs. Aren't we all supposed to do that? Go beyond what is comfortable, question even, search even if we are a bit scared. Hmm. Always a lot to think about here.

I've been busy... take a quick peak at my horse blog and see the two horses I just purchased! :)

Louise Gallagher said...

Well Ruth.... once, at University in Strassbourg, I used that phrase to describe how I died a little bit every time a certain boy walked by.

Ah yes, imagine my morts when everyone around me snickered and one kind soul took me aside to explain what I'd said.

I never could look at that particular boy again!

Fortunately, another Canadian used the phrase, 'je suis plein' shortly therafter and everyone fell into more paroxyms of laughter and forgot about my ahem, embarrasment.

Ruth said...

steven, what a moment to paint.

Ruth said...

Margaret, yes, lean into what is uncomfortable, and also lean into death, which is part of life. Not in a morbid way, but an accepting way.

Oberon is gorgeous!

Ruth said...

Louise, what a story!!

amy@ Souldipper said...

"day is where you are" certainly stands out for me. In those grief stricken moments, her days surely seemed gone forever. But then...she knew, didn't she?

Deslilas said...

For your next trip to France you must visit Vezelay ( en Bourgogne), the church was dedicated to Maria-Magdalena and lots of French writers were in loved with this city.
Jules Roy has spent his last years near the church and his home can be visited.
I knew him for his position about Algeria freedom when I was a teenager and I've met him again some months ago when I discovered he was the son of a teacher born.
in a small village ten kilometers from my summer house.
He has wrote a book "Vezelay ou l'amour fou".

Stratoz said...

been meaning to share this blog with friends, today will be that day. In fact this next moment will be

Ginnie said...

After our shared experience in Paris that one year, she will never be the same to me, sister! By the way, did I ever ask if you have read the Maeve Chronicles (trilogy) by Elizabeth Cunningham?