April 8-14, 2013

April 8-9, 2013

The Rothko Progression

            for Mark Rothko


Slow swirl at the edge of sea. Odd,

formless fusion of ovoids and auks,

you gave us morning songs in the key

of flesh, scored them with blacks and

browns, reds scribbled in an absence

of sense. Show us your archaic idols

of yellow, cherry, orange, nameless

in post-war ecstasy. These are your

baby steps, your questions, nascence.


Multiform shapes give way to linear

thought, and I can’t help but wonder

whether you dream in paragraphs or

stanzas. No matter. It’s on the page.

Obfuscation in ochres red and orange.

Dark over Light Earth. Did you know?

Earth and green and even the number

eighteen portend a synthesis of dread

synesthesia. Carry on your rhetoric in

violet, black, orange. Yellow on white

and red.


So much for green and tangerine.

On red, maroon becomes a maudlin

hue, and brown haunts holes right

through your soul, but I think you

knew that going in. What happened

to the auks and awkward ovals?

What happened to the scribbled lines?

Must be the purple-brown lavender

left to dry amid the earth and green

mulberry leaves. The rust that befalls

iron fired to a deep, satisfying blue.

Blue and Indigo

So the sun begins to set, dragging with it

disparate blocks of tangerine stillness

and smoky swaths of crude lemon cream.

Oranges, ochres, and reds stretch away

to the far edge of creation, leaving us to

ponder the blue, orange, red that remain

in layers above us. I keep an eye on the

untitled mural for the end wall, its brown

and gray tones deepening, deepening,

deepening until sooner or later I can see

only black on dark sienna on purple will 

survive. The setting sun bleeds blue. Gray.


INTERIOR: Entrance to subway (nameless).

EXTERIOR: Hierarchical birds on primeval 

landscapes. Self-portrait in shade. Swollen

with purpling pride, the Artist takes one,

three, thirteen, forty-six spiraling steps to

a street scene, to underground fantasy no. 9,

where the soft edges of his self-portrait

carry no weight, impart no wisdom, settle

no scores. Each plodding step a conscious

movement toward a dark embrace, a bluer

rest, disassociation from the greater whole.

INTERIOR: The Artist takes up his brush.

EXTERIOR: Pigment soaks up moonlight.


Luna taunts with tentacles of memory.

Abstract landscapes lay in wait for one

man’s revelations. How deep the dark?

This side of a dry, gray moon: only this…

monochrome horizons feasting on our

frail humanity. In the inky black of a

February night, you carved new tendrils,

into a canvas yet unspoiled and left us

wondering at this new masterpiece and

its puzzling progression to white on red.

April 10, 2013


As though

a comet

had crashed

through these



to upset the time-

honored certainties

of order

in the cosmos,

we remain here

softly bruised

among the spinning

and whirling,

tossed to and fro

by too many

eddies of mystery

and memory.

And yet I learn

that I was left

behind to tidy up

the shards,

slap together

with modeling clay

and rubber bands

the meager notions

of consequence

and loss.

You were left

to toss and turn,

and in the yawning

space of recompense,

you teach me

how to persevere.

April 11, 2013

Elegy for My Father

He sat staring, mouth agape,

lips tinged nicotine yellow, cracked

and split for want of moisture.

Laboriously he sat there, breath in,

breath out. Repeating like it’s his job.

The memory of his face, etched evermore

in every part of my being, is my memory

of our last moment together.

These days I miss his hands. Blue-collar

tools that put bread on our table

and in our pockets, they strike me now

as proof of God in their beauty,

their utility, in their amazing capacity

for gentle strength. Greasy. Calloused.


I remember his new style of hair, ashen

and sparse, but bouncing back nicely

after chemo had killed it. So much

like the cut he’d worn as a young father

on a flattop boat in the Sea of Japan.

Twenty years on and he’d traded dangers:

torpedoes and missiles for

tumors and malignance.

I miss the stories of his Navy days.

I can’t remember a single one.

What I do remember is taking his hand

on a Thursday afternoon (when he was sitting,

staring, breathing.) I remember taking his hand

to shake it so as not to face an embrace,

and I made an excuse just to go. “Gotta work,”

I said. “See you later,” I said.

The memory grinds to slow motion now.

First a full firm grasp, my left in his

(that wonderful, unaffected hand),

then a weakening, slipping a bit, and I moved

to pull mine away. All but two of my fingers were free…

and he squeezed them. Barely, but I felt it.

Afraid, I pulled away, leaving him hanging,

hand floating free, then falling to his lap.

“See you, Dad.”

And see him I did, his hands folded neatly

in front of him, carefully so,

by a man I knew

neither then nor since.

And I stared at those hands, the hands

that had raised me, guided me, shown me the way.

Thrown me a football and smacked my behind,

carved me a race-car and pulled my first tooth.

I reached out

                        and stopped,

choosing instead not to touch them again

not to hold his fingers one last time.

How much now I wish that I had.

April 12, 2013


I think it calls for a little fire:

flame and ember and smoke

and steam and all the attendant

concatenations of smoldering.

It will need a dash of panache.

Sparks from the fire may be

the thing, but only for so long.

No, I think it may need feathers.

And we must consider binding

agents: the muckish gluey glop

that will hold this all together,

really allow its form to pop.

Accoutrements. Inevitable. Let’s take

the best of all that’s left, and leave

them in the sun to bleach. Some

will darken to contrast the pale.

And what to do for mise en place?

Old newsprint and chicken wire.

Carving blocks and paring knives.

Three different-sized mixing bowls.

Now that our ducks are all in a row

(and not so difficult a row to hoe),

it’s time I decided on what I should fix.

The Poetry Gods are licking their lips.

April 13, 2013

Cherry Blossoms

after Olena Kalytiak Davis

If I am Reader then you are Wanderer

—graceful wordmother—

—facile textmonger—

fragile as night flowers, tactile as ice.

Who will love us thus unbidden?

I wish for me that you’d return

to where you’ve never been

as Astrophel to Stella…

I have fallen for your pixels.

Is commerce love, love a commodity?

Our stock in trade: words, the currency of the lie

the bittersweet,

the open and shut case of you

and me, we before the storm,

before God,

before the fall, before night

comes calling and all that exists right here

(right now?)

is sweat and grief and

“Kashmir” playing a half-measure too

slow on a beaten 80s boombox.

What do the letters spell?

I want to disappear. I must.

Read this. Meanwhile I’ll


pondering the lie and this my new name.

April 14, 2013

Walking Away: A Requiem

Strange. I’d forgotten how

the seasons change, consumed as I was

with watching as slowly you died.

Strange how bitter the cold.

Stepping out, I notice first the falling

leaves blazing red and gold, colors that

pale at the merest suggestion of you.

Strange how I’d neglected to notice

refused to notice, perhaps, how

the hospital walls held me up, held you in,

stable amid the stale stench of sterility.

Strange. Time should have stopped out here

the way that it did at your bedside.

Instead, the seasons wore on while

grief wore me out. And now I go on.

Strange to be walking away, alone.