by Lee Marc Stein
Van Gogh upon viewing
Rembrandt’s “Jewish Bride”
offered ten years of his life
to sit before it for a fortnight
with just a crust of bread to eat.
Was Vincent in his right mind to say
this painting’s the epitome of intimacy?
Romantics, we see Rebecca respond
dreamily to Isaac’s caress.
Her fingers’ slightest touch on his
affirms she wants his hand on her breast.
His arm on her back supports his love;
they are of a single flesh.
Quietly they contemplate each other,
folds in their clothes proxy their deepest thoughts,
colors correlate with the richness of their union.
Skeptics, we wonder if Isaac’s hand
on her chest claims his husbandly rights,
if his arm on her back keeps her from straying.
He does not seek her eyes because he agonizes
about how he’ll pay for his golden cloak.
She averts his gaze to hide her loathing,
fears this merger came at too big a price.
Money woes may reduce them to paupers
begging on the streets of Amsterdam.
Unity is in the eye of the beholder.