The Red of the Jewish Bride

I have loved the Red of the Jewish Bride
from the first time I saw it,
not realising yet
what kind of courtship I began that day.
I went there also when the sky was grey,
or the sun’s light showed for a moment only
and flowed away in an unsteady line,
and then I sought the nuance that so tenderly,
yet never with passion enough,
asked me to stay a long time.
I saw the Bride with her left hand
play the piano on the right hand of
her husband made diffident by time
and I was not jealous. That was their bond.
I did not come to intrude upon their loving,
I am concerned with the Red of her dress
and with nothing else,
not even their entourage in golden-green.
Just to see that colour as a colour of today,
as though Rembrandt were beside me playing with it
amidst the bronzes of the background scene
and, whatever other colours he painted in,
still found that one colour for all time.
Whether or not the maulstick was used in her making,
it’s his Red in which he sang the young Bride’s dress;
it is my Red, surrounding her right hand,
not jewels, no, not fringes or lace,
it is only red, the Red, that I adore,
above all when I sit by Rembrandt in the sun.

From Collected Works, vol. II (Verzameld werk II, 1976)
By Pierre Kemp
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1994