Mark Rothko Poem
Such things are cakes or confectionary.
Lozenges leave me marooned in magenta and maroon.
The smell of this white cube, smell of the cerebellum too.
Light subdued makes the heart sound,
go Stendhal all of a sudden.
To me this canvas is a Vimto ice-cube.
I catch puce. The blurb’s seen on the back of a can.
If licked that surface would taste of sugar, strips of colour
or cakes (they recur) as if placed in Patisserie Valerie.
Iphones click while I contemplate
as if culture is a thing to consume.
The French mill around me. I can’t speak Italian.
They wear backpacks or look smart in suits and ties.
Faces aghast, stupefied. Slowed attention spans.
Or lovers immersed, hand-in-hand.
Nine canvases in total. The four seasons.
The Seagram murals hang like meat or beef hangs
on hooks. A perimeter fence stops me
from seeing the paint too close. I cross the line.
Alarms go off. Rothko himself would disapprove.
Everything made dim and church-like.
The artist was against graven images.
Seeing the paintings like this it’s the scale that surprises.
The girl I’m with wanders off to muse a Bridget Riley.
I refer to her in terms of gran mal seizures.
For now I gorge on these. And this bloodless surface
too clean would taste of germalene.
As foreign tongues guzzle the spectacle, I go to a truffle.
I go further. If these are windows
they’re windows on the hereafter.
Though so much is unflashing photography.
Are these suicide notes? I have an urge to steal one
and hide it under a massive coat. Or I want to unleash
on this surface a machete. I want the aura
to be cut through. There are no signs of Mary.
This isn’t a nave. And again I crave a knife and a cake.
Patrick Wright has a poetry pamphlet, Nullaby, and forthcoming collection published by Eyewear. His poems have appeared in several magazines, including Agenda, Wasafiri, The Reader, London Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Ink, Sweat and Tears,and Iota. His poem ‘The End’ was recently included in The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2018, judged by Maggie Smith. He has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. He is studying towards a PhD on ekphrastic responses to dark or near-black paintings, and he works as a Lecturer at The Open University where he teaches Creative Writing.
The Ekphrastic Review
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