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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Poem: 87 words
By Robbi Nester

Scent of Mortality

After Rembrandt’s Unconscious Patient
He might be a statue carved of rosy marble, 
long arms limp, perfectly proportioned 
neck and torso rising like a column 
from his patterned robe. The physicians, 
gnarled as gargoyles, hover over him, 
waving a whiff of vinegar or smelling salts 
beneath his nose. In the darkness 
where he drifts, the clock has no 
dominion. No smell or sound 
to draw him off the unfamiliar trail. 
On a sea of silence, blank and calm, 
he sails without a map. 


—From the poet’s book manuscript Picture This, which is available for publication.

Unconscious Patient: Painting (ca. 1624-25) by Rembrandt van Rijn
Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell)*

Original oil on panel (ca. 1624-25) by Dutch Golden Age painter
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) resides in The Leiden Collection
(New York), one of the largest private collections of Dutch art in the world.

*Publisher’s Notes:

1. Details about the painting above are available at The Leiden Collection, owned by New York financier Thomas Kaplan and his wife, Daphne. Several paintings by Rembrandt are discussed, including two others that also reside in this collection, Stone Operation (Allegory of Touch) and Three Musicians (Allegory of Hearing).

Re Unconscious Patient, see also The story behind a Rembrandt painting’s journey from a New Jersey basement to the Getty by David Ng in The Los Angeles Times (7 May 2016).

2. To learn more about Rembrandt’s Senses series, the earliest known works by the artist, see the article “Rembrandt’s Senses, Expanded” (Scientific examination of a recently rediscovered Rembrandt reveals how—and why—it was altered 300 years ago) by Dominique Surh in The Iris (24 May 2016), the blog of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles (link retrieved on 16 May 2022):

Robbi Nester
Issue 13, May 2022

is the author of four books of poetry, including an ekphrastic chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and three collections: Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014). She has also edited three anthologies: The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014); Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees, which was published as a special issue of Poemeleon Journal; and The Plague Papers, recently published online at Poemeleon Journal.

Her poems, reviews, essays, and articles have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including Aeolian Harp VI, Book of Matches, Cultural Daily, Gargoyle, Live Encounters, Muddy River Review, North of Oxford, Rhino, Tampa Review, Tiferet, Verdad, and Verse-Virtual. She is an elected member of the Academy of American Poets.

Author’s website: www.robbinester.net

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

After Blossom, ekphrastic poem after an etching by Phil Greenwood in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 3, May 2020)

Three Poems by Robbi Nester in Verse-Virtual (January 2020)

Law of Attraction, ekphrastic poem after Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, in Verse-Virtual (May 2019)

Night Tunnel, ekphrastic poem after a painting by Robert Rhodes, Philadelphia Night Train, in The Ekphrastic Review (21 April 2016)

The Locusts, ekphrastic poem after a collage of the same name by Mary Boxley Bullington, in The Ekphrastic Review (13 October 2015)

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