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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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BLUE CLOUD

            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

 


NUDE ORANGE

 

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


 

 

#2 BLACK ON DEEP PURPLE 1964

                        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