Elizabeth McLagan

Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea

            Mark Rothko

The painting he will sell and then trade to repossess
and give to his wife: it will hang in their home until their deaths

six months apart, he will call it “Mell Ecstatic,” will call
it a breakthrough, it will come to MOMA in her estate. Here

are two forms not fully formed, the one on the left in a whirl,
a necklace spins in a flowery blur: imagine a hat,

a bosomy bulge, waist of a wasp inside a red spiral galaxy,
another bulge that ends in blue-green-white-feet

grounded in starry points and possibly incoming waves.
The other figure is even less solid, pale sockets for eyes,

space-man helmet, appendages like kelp pods, a tear-drop
bulge in which the essences (blue swirl, red sediment)

are innocent, unmixed. Imagine them on the beach,
she opens her arms like a crucifix and spins, he is all nerve,

all elemental taper and squeeze, his longing anchored,
plant-like in sand. Never mind what will come, it is 1944,

not yet the day’s triangular hat, mornings and afternoons,
the evenings of romance and carnage. Here the unbound

fields, white flags of surrender, unanchored blossoms,
apple under a veil of arabesques, the red and white lines

of a blank staff whose notes have flown like great birds
still hovering, a flutter of leaves, still vibrato, still

dervish, sleep sink and float, not yet the doorway, not yet
the pull and drag of the body out of the other-ocean.