The Rothko poem

Here’s  the Rothko poem-


I’m in this space

This gallery space

And we’re having this chat

He and I

Even though he’s dead

And I’m not

Even though he’s Russian

And I’m not

We posture a while

Establish some mutual cred

Then he wants to show me something

Says he wants to make me understand

So he stands me in front of a piece

Puts me up close

And leaves me there

Without a word

I look and suddenly my eyes are drowned in paint,

I can no longer see

All I can do is look at the paint

That is smothering, suffocating

My eye and then I notice

The reds aren’t red

The blacks aren’t black

And the squares aren’t square

He comes back and pulls me out

We go for a drink at a bar down the street

I tell him that I’m starting to get it

And that I want to do some more

He laughs as if to himself

As only short dead Russians can

And I agree to take it steady

One thing at a time

I ask him about the cost,

About the restaurant

About the chapel

About the price to pay

He shrugs

What can he do?

He’s dead

On our second drink

I become bold

I press him on compression

The energy it must take

To distill all of that

Including the Greeks

Into a single canvas

He smiles and is gone

And I’m left with two drinks

And the fact that

The reds aren’t red

The blacks aren’t black

And the squares aren’t square

This seems to be quite popular  but I’m not  pleased with it. There’s a middle section about new ways of looking at stuff that I tried to write but couldn’t. I also  think the conceit of going for a drink with the dead Russian is a bit contrived but at least this does make it seem more accessible.

The motivation for writing it was the desire to commmunicate my feelings about a particular panel- part of the late “black and grey” series because it was this panel  that made  me understand what Rothko was about.  This was a revelation and I don’t think the poem does it justice. In the end (after many drafts) I decided to put some limits on the piece for the sake of accessibility and to make it more personal.

3 responses to “The Rothko poem

    • See what you mean re suffocation. It is contrived and more than a little manipulative but the really odd thing is that people seem to really like that section regardless…. I don’t.

  1. OOh, with my amazing HTML talent, I was able to make most of my comment a hyperlink to my poem. My apologies.

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