The Rothko Chapel


Frozen in time, sequestered among the silences,
pyramidal doubt raises its sinking dominion;
and, like some jagged ray of ancient pain –
the radiance of a black sun, fallen
into this lonely abyss, we come to the chapel
where time ends and death begins her ageless reign. 

In the absence of myth we have these mute singers,
lamentations to the void and solitudes, of loss
beyond recompense in a realm where thought decays to nothing.

In this late era when men no longer contemplate
the gods or God, but pierce the void,
the self emptied of its images;
the nothing of this emptied staging of the world,
the place of no place,
where human and what was once taken as divine
wander the surfaces of some painter’s dark splotches;
just here the edge of that fractured light begins…

Here among the black ruins of eight angelic rulers
we come to contemplate the logic of worlds,
the calculated mathematical precision of aeons
(of which this darkness is but a collapse,
a slippage in the fabric of being, an event);
where strangers gather in silence
like secret witnesses to this great defeat.


Black on black a deeper darkness resounds, a bell
among the echo chambers of the Abyss…

Listen to the music, do you not hear it?

Her voice, the sorrow that grows in that black night?

Despair follows us among these entombed remembrances,
her tongue licking the flames
of this cold world of thought.

Before time she dwelt among the ashes of things,
her tears giving birth to that blind beast who even now
wanders the vastation where she aborted this dementia;
yet, he lives among her bones, arrogant and prideful,
a shadow among shadows, a black thing, a lifeless copy. 


Do you not see what cannot be seen? This monstrosity?
This mad king of formlessness: a mindless dimension
of broken vessels of that shattered light
that once obliterated the cry of those angelic choirs?

Here Suicide wanders the black stars among swirling seas,
where she sucks the light from the emptiness of things;
and, Death, her sweet sister laughs among dead pools.

Cold, impersonal, monoliths of some deep truth
immanent to things – without that transcension
…… of light,
folded into themselves, winged oblivions…

Who sang to you in those cloistered solitudes?
Who prayed to you without faith, bitter words, trembling?
Who gave your formlessness the cruel color of annihilation?

This chapel tells the tale of absence when these archons,
seeking safety among the mineral wealth of darkness,
hid their mistake, stuffed this green earth with vibrant matter;
a thinking thing, the first, awakened among false light,
a promise of return, a living chaos of some broken promise.

Only when the light of night, the moon, glances
into these painted threads can one hear those black sounds
reverberate against the absolute indifference of things…

…..Rothko named this sound – “the infinity of death”.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

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