Valentine’s Day at the SF MOMA, Again

In place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art.
—Susan Sontag, "Against Interpretation"

Most years, beyond LeWitt rainbows,
under Calder’s languid and mobile weights, past
Steiglitz’ candid subjects, grey faces in grey worlds,
in a white gallery, red lifts from darkness.
A color field reverberates into an open eye.
It makes my heart pound, signaling nothing.

At fourteen, I arrived here knowing nothing,
arguably innocent, my schoolgirl hair in bows.
Rothko took me torrid through the eyes,
past Bullfinch, past an uprising of words, past
a poetry of silence, bent me back to a dark
beginning, then returned me to a new world:

no chocolates, no candy, but a red and longing world
I would later learn can pay me nothing
but the lyric moment, the widening fissure, the dark
delight of falling into the earth, standing at the night ship’s bow,
pulling ribbons from my hair, there to glide past
the fancy of content, the representative insult to the eye.

Once before, in the LA MOCA, we had a rendezvous: I
dissolved into four canvas walls, a world
of blue on blue.
metaphor, we were separated by nothing.
Someone bowed
on two-strings, fretless in the dark.

There is a red bridge over the dark
water – this longing is called nostalgia, I
remember now – where the cellist took a bow
and translated, hotly from the underworld:
This trip, this song, will reduce you to nothing
if you open your eyes, if you look to the past.

Who knows how many Valentine’s I’ve passed,
rushing past Klee and Diebencorn to stand here until dark,
staring at my black & bleeding memory until there’s nothing,
but love, love, love. . . the soul of genius on the eye?
Eventually, I shake my head and turn, rejoin the mobile world.
A man my age brushes past, and, winking, patch-on-elbow,

asks, “What does it all mean?” Just go, get shot from that red bow,
past your interpretable world into the annihilating dark,
to return, arrow, into your own eye, into a white room meaning nothing.

Note: The phrases “irretrievably innocent” and “poetry of silence” are lifted from “Against Interpretation.” The "love, love, love. . . " is attributed to Mozart. The main painting in question is “Untitled 1960” from Mark Rothko.

Heather Green has work forthcoming in Pilot Poetry, and has published several pieces in The Cupboard Pamphlet. She recently completed her MA in English at University of Nebraska. Some of her poems are being set to music by composer Mark Popeney at UCLA to be performed by a chorus and by her sister, guitarist Chelsea Green.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761