Like so many people before me, I wanted to write. I’d left my corporate job in international finance and moved to Texas, enrolled in a creative writing course at a local college, and on the first day of class, I sat on the front row, anxious to discover the art of writing.
Much to my surprise, the class would cover poetry for the first six weeks. The first assignment was to create a poem. That night I stressed so much I could not sleep. About three in the morning, rhyming lines about a young horse and an old stallion flowed through my mind. I got out of bed and wrote the entire poem. I later earned $25.00 when I sold that poem, despite its rhyming scheme, to a nature magazine. I became a regular contributor to that magazine.
The professor had reasons to start with poetry. Poems often have a strong narrative voice; they are filled with expressive power and do so with a few carefully chosen words. By the end of the six weeks, I loved writing them and I continue to do so on occasion.
It took my friend Ann McKennis’s inquiry about my poems on the Rothko Chapel to prompt
me to look back at poetry I’d written. The Rothko Chapel in Houston is non-denominational, and it also serves as a lecture hall, a meditative space, and a major work of modern art by Mark Rothko who also influenced the architecture of the building. His paintings, in various hues of black, inspired me to write several poems, such as this one:
Red and Black
Painting is about thinking,
not merely spreading paint on a canvass—
not until the idea germinates, sprouts,
spreads like lips, hot lips covered in red lipstick,
fondling every thread of primed cloth,
like a woman arousing her lover,
her tongue licking nectar from his body.
Apply paint with controlled strokes,
drawing out emotions,
pulling passion with color.
Allow wet paint to slosh
from surface to edge, leave it
fuzzy so the eye adjusts before
the brain sees the artist’s inspiration.
Take red, like rage, then black,
which contains it all, and white,
as Melville said, the most fearful color—
for it is the abyss, the infinity of
death. But it is black that
swallows the red.
The Rothko Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2000.
This piece was written by Kathryn Lane for the Stiletto Gang.