• Carmen Leigh Keates


To Paint the Inside of a Church

After Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev


Beneath the glamour of the pipe organ

there are bellows. Underneath the church

of the Grand Prince there’s the dour

obligation of immortality

as if it were the family business,

and preparation for an abiding name

exists like Latin classes.


Andrei is trying so hard

not to make a mark or a sound

but cannot help it—something unattached

to ego drives on this faith painting,

though the body that germinates

belief still throws such shade

he feels impelled to the crossroads

of yellow flowers buzzing

so full of bees that if this scene were shaken

upside down it would not be pollen

that trickles out but legs and wings.


Beneath the pipe organ’s glamour

there is a pit that breathes

and every tone must be mixed precisely.


Imagine the months and years

of painting the inside of a church

while others have their tongues cut out.


To paint the inside of a Russian church

dome in the fifteenth century

is to be the very sound of a bell.


A fire once started can take care of itself—

all it knows is eat.

It can clear a field so nicely.

This can be good or bad for us.

No rules call and there is no dialogue

with the conscience,

only giving things to fire and

allowing the instinctive eat.


Andrei did not approve of how the pagan

woman loved but I think she won.


To live inside a church

whose walls you paint

is to live a life of scaffolds.

His shroud is a bell.

His cloak is a bell,

feet bells and all the violence


he sees is a tonal gradation

towards the most splendid red—

one forever repeated blow

and its resonance.




At the Bergman Museum

Fårö, Sweden.


The lightning is concerned with a secret

affair far off in the unlit Baltic.

Only the rain comes home.


Tracking down the road, my bicycle, my eye,

past the Viking huts with their weird antennae,

I am riding a lightning conductor away

from a museum about a recluse.


If it were not for the storm I may have had time

to visit the grave, but now perhaps this cloud is Bergman.


In the museum the rooms are red. Red is for cinema,

and inside of the head. Above us, flying nightdresses—

invisible children suspended, they’ve taken their final leap

into the afterlife. They are still here, but are now ghosts

made of non-water; or they’re a memory returned, animated



There are many rooms, frames. We make them

move by passing through and remembering our own sequences.


When the storm breaks I’m in a bus shelter at Sudersand

and the rain is full and clean like ice-melt. It makes me thirsty.

I’m cold. I don a black shirt printed with those grey runes hidden

like magic keys across this island.


Artists should be mindful: never trust a memory with an heirloom,

unless at night from Gotland’s shore, ghosts stream across

the waterway to Fårö … For if Ingmar’s films broke


into his dreams and, as he said, sat at the base

of his soul, maturing comfortably like mighty cheeses,

perhaps now he haunts the work right back.


What meets eyes that gaze at such a light?

Exoskeletons in the tiny night.