David Swartz "RELIGION WITH AN EDGE"
biblicalfictions.com
Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum
ROTHKO II

 

My art is dying now.  Faced with termination of the self,

The art as well, for this post-modern swill rejects insight

 

As well as meaning.  There are small unities in these our

Facile times and Art itself relegated to image culled from

 

An utterly popular culture; though genius must well bend

And never disregard all present context, much as context

 

Itself can learn from genius, this cult of the jetsam social

Ambience, this mimicry of flag and target, cereal box, is

 

Cynical indeed.  Certainly the tragic of disconnected era

Is well known, but the real cannot survive without inner

 

Aching, the latter as such, the matter and the form; scant

False alarm—lapsing toward irrelevance with their void.

 

THIRTEEN

 

 

{In the shallow, low-ceiling spaces of Rothko’s rooms

and subway stations of the 1930’s,

the inhabitants look walled-in, trapped [in his expression].  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

To bleed self out of trap, to leak one’s being, to force this

Issue?  Even those early forays into art were locked into a

 

Stark containment, and yet for most alleviated to no small

Degree by the utter dazzle of my color, color itself, and no

 

Odd effort.  Though all of it preverbal, the message WAS,

              Starkly near completion, albeit denied all the same toward

 

Some certain beauty.  It was simply my duty to obscure the

Decoration, for all certainty was beyond the edges of those

 

Stacks,implied within.  Man dies in quest of sheer freedom

From entrapment, yet searching all the same to enslave his

 

Debtors.  But Rothko himself considered every gesture.  For

           Yes the glazes spread in fury but each move was considered.         

 

FOURTEEN

 

 

{The “human drama” for Rothko of the 1930s is a

drama of lack; his paintings convey silent

isolation, emotional deprivation and stifling enclosure.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

Can’t paint, can’t smoke, can’t eat, can barely copulate, can’t

Drink, and cannot go back to Mell through my love for her is

 

Constant.  Hemmed in by this existence and it all was into MY

The Houston murals, the monochromes heroic in sheer scope,

 

Dimension.  This aneurysm has gelded me in far more ways

Than one.  I’d scarcely admit it, but Dr. Meade seems right.

 

Rothko with his “global depression”—rather declare cosmic

To describe my state of being.  No raison d’ềtre.  No juice—

 

And Mell would have me mystic.  This old odd man was far

More prophet, painting, prophesying what was already there.

 

And the locals inquired if I was in Italy to paint the temples!

My utter Gestalt is synagogue!  And here they lay me down.

 

FIFTEEN

 

 

{The autopsy revealed one cut 2 ½” long and ½” deep on

Rothko’s left arm and 2” long and 1” deep

on the right. . . .  Both . . . just below the crook of the elbow.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

The son O.B. I failed acknowledge would make his easy living

Dancing on my fetus—as I can read that herd, that cattle.  And

 

 keep no truck in “tragedy, ecstasy, doom” as a solemn better’d

Have it, for Warhol’d find it shamefully ernst at that.  Press or

 

Fondle hand?  The spikes are driven, belly lanced, and Rothko?

Endures his absence—too dear for all but museum and the rich!

 

The son of a bitch, and all his crew we worked so hard to aptly

Overcome.  These days one lives self into dementia, unlauded,  

 

Shamefully a very old man and not an elder—to think I took a

Sophocles’ examplar!  Well they have buried even Aeschylus

 

With their whoredom!  And arrive beyond the confines of their

Singular, to ascend to Idea—moronic quest were our Platonic!

 

SIXTEEN

 

 

{Rothko was a ruminator who, like the young man in

his pajamas, . . . [aspired] to consider

his moves.  He was both impulsive and deliberate.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

There came in all my lives a slackening of drives, a stasis.

Somewhere within the colors on the canvas, paper, was a

 

Message—that torment was the contract simply for living,

That conquest was contracted far beyond the self or manic

 

Motion of forgiving.  I knew what seemed was never ours

Before, and yet no verbal motion could restate it, that ars

 

Poetica were seldom without its torture, that grief is often

              Rupture, death often Rapture; and where this immolation

 

Purchased final structure.  There was a fullness that WAS,

Finally fracture.  I had gone on beyond luminosity or even

 

Color; the browns, the grays the whites were isolation of,

And by the self and past the whole; I struggled to be soul.

 

SEVENTEEN

 

 

{Rothko’s last and most severe renunciations were made

not to remove obstacles between the observer

and the idea but a gesture of personalwithdrawal.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

Just as agony or sister pain must know, all color locked

Securely to the edge cannot hope to advance, secure the

 

The spirit, and such was my motive when I freed those

Ugly, radiantly, lovely facts.  There was a time when I

 

Would render even our own griefs a sage beyond sheer

Shaking.  Tremors of the self or soul arrive again with

 

Careful stark delineation, as even now I face my dying.

There IS no tragedy extending past the leaking blood of

 

Christ.  Buddhas have known one smile.  Krishnas have

Known one face.  When elevated to the stuff of mythos

 

Christ descended from his terrible lonely Cross to kiss a

Solipsistic brood, to suck all solitary wound, to prosper.

 

EIGHTEEN

 

 

{But with the “Black on Gray” paintings, the rectangles

are once again tied to the edge,

held firmly in place.  You are always outside them.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

This Rothko you address has discovered FURTHER reality

Than most admit existence.  The shapes and hues I warm to

 

Life are real as the familiar, true as the recognition.  There

Is no attempt to foist off the fantastic, to spin a futile dream.

 

The world engendered by the mind is real as God’s cosmos

From without, as concrete as the pinions of the naturally, I’d

 

State, subsisting given.  The world at large is moved beyond

All hopes to designate or capture beyond the seldom lived, a

 

Mutilation the artist must engender, uttering verbiage or hue

Long faded from veracity into the murky past, the sullen and

 

Solemnly existent.  My shapes are artfully free of figment.

They subsist as Substance—actors in the drama of the Soul.

 

NINETEEN

 

 

{In taking his own life, however, Rothko left us with

the image of a single human figure, alone

in . . .an attitude of Christ-like defeat and victimization.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

Lacking gods and monsters we are emptied of human drama.

All art expresses this frustration, all since the Renaissance if

 

Not the painters of Venice or Shakespeare himself.  We are

Sunk in melancholy, a chasm between subject and object, a

 

Void that begs substance and is denied, for there is no viable

Myth, not yet even the Christian, not yet their deification of

 

Very human suffering.  All that remains is the solitary human

Figure with the surd of his mortality and his imperishable, all

 

Too human longing for ubiquitous experience in face of an

Incontrovertible fact.  Should I slash my arms in one furious,

 

Zen-like, moment, it merely reflects, in stark relief, the bitter

Face of fact.  Should I ACT.  Should I leak the death of God!

 

TWENTY

 

 

{The most important tool [of] the artist is faith in his ability

to produce miracles. . . .[When complete, all]

intimacy [with] the creation . . . is ended.  He is an outsider.  J.E.B.B.}

 

 

 

The actors, in my dramas, are the colors, the shapes, the

Swaths of variant hue; there is no further mystery to my

 

Work.  I engender space and form, engender pigment to

Enact a drama which humankind alone and unassisted,

 

Is utterly helpless to perform.  The attempt itself is rank

Shame; these paintings strut upon their stage unhindered

 

By self-doubt.  When complete, when finished, there is

No further intimacy, no contact.  The miracle is enacted.

 

I wish, thirst, to go “beyond painting”; there is no wider

Motivation; as such am only at the periphery of this odd

 

Effort, this prophecy of the utterly unsayable, the wholly

Inarticulate, vastly imperishable, wild—mystery of being.

 

TWENTY-ONE

 

 

{The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing

it later, a revelation, an unexpected

and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.  J.E.B.B}

 

 

 

 

                                                                                             Rothko

 

 

                                                             R. Bogat

                                                 

                                                                                                   Rothko