At the Guggenheim, or Working-Class Girl Meets Rothko
My first time walking up the Guggenheim ramp, colour took me over: two stacked rectangles, orange and yellow-green, that shimmer in my mind decades later. I stopped knowing where I was – fell into some sort of zone, the Saturday museum crowd vanished. I'd never been alone with orange before. Mine had been a sepia childhood with regular bursts of fireworks. Sunset was dangerous, a time to look toward ground, fathers due home and mothers flashing red, when a flaming 3-D orange ball would be tossed back and forth, no attention left to pay to the incidental sky. While my lover had tutored me in sunsets – the fine art of looking out and up, the peaceful co-existence of reds, purples, greens and blues – he hadn't prepared me for Rothko, how a shape of colour lifted off the canvas. Orange had always meant marigolds, green-yellow the lawn during a dry spell. And how those beckoning rectangles could hang there so stridently, for no practical reason, two wide swaths radiating waves. Two separate colours bleeding into each other – but neither capitulating – to become something larger. Orange and Yellow, 1956, cloaking me, staking its claim.
This poem was first published in Connecticut River Review, 2017.
Nancy Hewitt received her MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2002. Her chapbook HEARD was published in 2013 by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review (Editor’s Prize), Phoebe, Connecticut River Review, Ellipsis, Off the Coast, and other journals. Her awards include nominations for a Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net. She recently retired from her private practice in psychotherapy in Salem, MA, in order to focus more fully on writing. She divides her time between Swampscott, MA, and East Randolph, VT.
The Ekphrastic Review
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