Without the title, I’d never have guessed
Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul. The apostle part,
I mean, for by now I know Rembrandt’s face.
Here at 55, the artist masquerading
as that fiery man near the end of his life,
quieted, reading the Scriptures—a book
in this painting, as if the printing press
had always been around. Though had it been,
Paul could be re-reading one of his own
epistles—First Corinthians, Second. Each time
he looks back, Rembrandt likewise finding
something he’s left out or at least, one more way
to show what he means: Self Portrait Frowning,
Self Portrait Leaning Forward, Self Portrait
as a Beggar, as a Burgher, Bareheaded,
in a Soft Hat, in a Plumed Hat, even
as a saint. Yet I should not have said “reading
the Scriptures” as if to suggest Paul had been
pondering their words, trying to see
how much still holds true this close to the grave,
because Rembrandt’s pictured Paul, or himself,
having just looked up, having just been called
from his praying, his painting. Who wants what now?
Interruption could be the summation
of this life. Even at 55, still the need
to discern: temptation? invitation?
What’s the hunger I’ve been put here to feed?