Saturday Poem


—“Darkening Red”
a painting by Mark Rothko

To explain crimson, Darkening red
the grotesque danger,
the acute beauty
and commotion of it,

how it commands recollection,
even after every trace
is vanished, I describe
our small faces

smeared crimson
sweet and sour cherry pits
stacked in front of us
like small cannonballs

the first stain gleaming
inside my teenage thighs,
seen down below
through new breasts,

my cousin’s cheek
after the rake hit
the bony part near her eye
forming a fork-shaped wound,

or at the butcher’s shop,
watching as his thick fingers
kept streaking
his long white apron.

I know there is no forgetting.
Years after my butterflied chest
(the surgeon’s cache) is splayed
under a blaze of lights, I relive red

nightmares that darken
long after the scar that ropes my ribs
turns silvery,
like birch.

by Jim Culleny
from Alehouse 2011

Painting by Mark Rothko