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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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            Mark Rothko

It is 1956, his studio still a cramped room

he is done with the subways and portraits


done with surrealism, back from Boulder

sometime this year he will say I am not


an abstractionist  he will say people break

down and cry when they see my work


two years away, the great

Four Seasons commission


but here, blue cloud paragraph

tonnage of orange ground


as if the light is a crane

hauling up slabs of air


for once, calm surface, absent

of shadow, gold glow-band,


nimbus of rain erasures

a kind of tenderness


                                        -Elizabeth McLagan




This is not a picture you can touch.

Not a loosely folded robe


painted by Pontormo in the early 16th century.

Women are not holding each other.


No tiger lily, roadside cone, persimmon.

Maybe you've seen the orange nipples of a blue


nude? Not here. Or the peel of a still life with wine,

pale pulp and sweet yellow sections. Somewhere


else, goldfish swim in a clear bowl beside

a philodendron. Later, probably, sunset will boil


through coal smoke somewhere.

Today it is my privilege to remember


the smell of being eleven.  Edge

of a match flame. Last night's crescent moon.


Cross out the salt stain on a ferry dock, dried splash

of red ocher against a wall. No carrot, no habanera, no


blushing pear. No ash. No dogwood. No millionth maple. 

Not here adrenal gland, the terra cotta muscles


of the face. Not even barn swallow belly feather. Not even

Bullocks' Oriole carrying to its nest a flutter of safety tape.


                                                                     -Elizabeth McLagan




                        Mark Rothko


            It was you who put the night in my closed eyes

                         Sophocles Selected Poems, trans. Reginald Gibbons



At first all you might see is a black almost

undifferentiated, almost uniform, but then


a softness invades and the canvas like a curtain

breathes forth its form:  squall line of low-purple


horizon, 3 am on a flat plain, light just striking

the high altitudes, illuminating the coal dust angels


of dawn before dawn, no stars, and yes, you 

have made this up from gesture and sheen


and the layers of silence,  your mind and Rothko’s

his thoughts contained in the slender purple


band announcing the upper margins.  This

is where it will end, he whispers, here 


the heart-bond will be emptied and broken

here is the upper reach of who you are,


a fine weightlessness, oh wanderer

in the not-yet-oblivion,  heaven’s dark square. 


                                                -Elizabeth McLagan

Photo of Mark Rothko by James Scott in 1959.jpg
Mark Rothko, ©James Scott, 1959