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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Poem: 98 words
By Robbi Nester

On Rembrandt’s Stone Operation

Three figures huddle in the frame, 
one, with a needle, delves for 
the “headache stone,” said 
to be buried in the soft folds 
of the brain. Another holds a candle, 
shedding both light and shadow. 
The patient clenches his fists 
against the pain. 

The one who bears the flame 
has been a recent patient. A linen 
bandage binds his hair, stiff, straw-
yellow as the bristles of a broom. 
He and the others take their turns 
at playing surgeon. Each bears 
a pocketful of bloody pebbles 
to show patients the product 
of their search. 


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

Stone Operation: Painting (ca. 1624-25) by Rembrandt van Rijn
Stone Operation (An Allegory of the Sense of Touch)*

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, Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell) and Three Musicians (Allegory of Hearing).

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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