BPJ Current Issue | › Archive | › Author Index | › About BPJ | › News | › Contact
Hadara Bar-Nadav
BJP Home
  back


Four Reds for Rothko

1. Colorwheel

Mix cinnabar and ochre with eggs. Then light. Where to go once red lunges into fire? My servile edges aflame sounds as if an end is redly near. How quickly the chemical swallows and peels: saffron, vermilion, cadmium blue tipped with teeth. Very meditative. Also agitative. Fire spins its colorwheel. Prayerwheel. Sequels of fur-lined syntax melt. The flame, a triangle with eyes at the apex and silvery feet. The body, a matchstick house. A house is always burning, breathing commonly hard. I’m advised by specialists to arrange an elaborate fish tank and comfortable leather chair. Watch every day how slowly life moves in Anotherland. Add salt and flakes. Watch every day how slowly life eats. And so full of color.


2. Paper Conversion

There was red and then there was red. Red and Pink on Pink, Three Reds White Cloud (which is red), Brown and Black in Reds, and even just Red, though in the end Black on Gray. Several of them. There had been Green and Tangerine on Red and Ochre and Red on Red. Black on Dark Maroon. Yes. I could work with some pills, some pills but not others, and then a flood of paper with paint and my heart still swollen sick but yes, there were paintings. Hundreds flying from my hands. You could see the progression. Dvinsk, Russia, to Oregon and then New York. My final resting place East 69th Street.

In the end I had to work on paper. Like some writer. It was my heart, an aneurysm of the aorta and no more canvas, canvas, canvas had held me for so long. And then paper. Roll after roll of slick surface. No teeth. Paper, like some goddamn writer, but no pen, no pencil, no keys. Dumb heart. Dumb paintbrush. Then it was mostly brown or black on gray and a skinny white border that bobbled. A skinny white seam for red to break.


3. The Art of Untitled

A period says when to begin or end but who really knows. I spend hours and days inside red trying to solve syntax. Savage. Salve. Save. My hands big as horses, as houses. Big as buildings. Does somebody have a cigarette and light? Scale has gone and the cigarettes return proportion. The size of red? Distortion. To make a sentence impossible now. No more titles or names. No more red.

To float one layer on top of another. How to be perfectly still. Perfectly flat yet layer one on the other. For example, Four Darks in Red, Horizontal White over Darks, or Untitled (Brown and Gray), or Untitled and Untitled and Untitled. And then they wanted me to make a church and I did. A chapel and everything went dark.

Marcus Rothkowitz is not my name. Never trust language and words can unglue. The flatness of the picture plane. Purity of pigment. Purely flat. Never trust a name. Untitled and Untitled. Direct experience and exchange. Really, it’s all very mathematical. Very spiritual. I’m not even here. Here, the paintings are made by no one. Untitled and Untitled.


4. Black, Maroons and White

(with a line from Wallace Stevens)

Look how red can eat in Brown and Black in Reds and Four Reds. Hungry Little Red Riding Red. Red forest. Red clouds. Clouds over a red lake. A grandmother and a wolf. I made a brick house in Black, Maroons and White. A bole chimney and uneaten loaves of bread. A cherry pie with forked crust and secret slivers of lemon peel. The mooncloud of God dissolves, foaming at the wolf’s mouth. Sticky liver. Lover. Sliver. To eat a woman’s mouth, tie her lace and cotton bonnet underchin. My chin. Trick or treat. Or meat. My little inamorata, my lithe little pumping red. I wait for you with God on my side. Who eats, lives.

Dim the light and darken the hues. A parachute taped to the skylight so I can see the pigment glow, a hidden light source only the pigment knows. The spirit and space, the empty spirit in vacant space. Shallows of color swallow others. The wine-red sea opens to drown me. Only the wolfish pigment knows where the red ends and black begins, where black rises over red and red recedes against maroon, where black washes into green and green breaks in two and red is vanquished and swallows men like pearls.

© 2010 Beloit Poetry Journal       Design by Jim Parmenter