Today's poem is by Jason Koo
Driving Home, I see a Rothko Painting in the Distance and Pull Over to Give It a Lift
When I stop to pick it up, it's standing in front
of an IHOP off I-45, trying to turn it into a meadow.
"So where are you headed?" It doesn't answer.
But something in the colors coming from its face,
something in their strange soft pulse like a heart
says Here. "I think I see what you mean," I say.
"You don't want a handshake or an exchange of names;
you want total communion, a fusing of faces."
It nods, or seems to nod, tilting its planes of light
dangerously forward. This is not a glare
it's giving me, but more of an opening inward,
like a man staring into space to get at a thought.
"Everlasting," it says, suddenly, and I find myself
nervously looking away, noting the billboards
and mileage markers, the cows. "What do you call
these?" it asks, pointing. "Those? Windows."
"No," it says, "These are ramps for the wind.
A real window makes you stop and worship."
Okay, I think, hoping it won't ask about my mirrors.
But silence. It just keeps settling into silence.
"So what were you doing out there anyway?" I ask.
"A painter came along, and I appeared."
"No, I mean, how did you get there, next to the IHOP?"
"Through starts and stops and starts and stops."
"Why did you flag me down?" "You picked me up."
"Luckily," it adds, "because I cannot get anywhere
without you." "What, am I chosen?" I laugh.
"Only in the sense that anyone, if he chooses,
is chosen. Remember, you could still drop me off."
Outside, the neon lights are flashing on, over restaurant
and pool hall, topless bar and nightclub, all the city's
boxes of desire. "Do you know where we are?" I ask.
"What?" it says, turning a darker shade of orange.
"Well, I thought I was headed home, but"
"We are headed for the horizon." "The horizon?
I told you I could only take you as far as Houston!
Houston, not horizon!" "Houston?" it says, turning
purple. "Yeah, you'd like it. Plenty of IHOPs,
even a chapel where you can hang on a wall.
If we head for the horizon, we'll never get there
it doesn't exist." "Who said anything about getting
there?" "Well, we can't just keep going," I say.
"Yes," it says, "until you see the distance
in the mind, a continuance of clearing, opening ocean
and sky, the emptiness between two" It pauses,
and I swear I see a lock of flame shoot over its face:
"You want to see the world burned pure in a furnace
of sight." I feel like applauding. The bridges we're
passing beneath burst out applauding, the concrete
slopes and slabs burst out applauding, the drive-thrus,
dairy marts, squeegies at the gas station, the white
Best Western balcony chairs burst out applauding,
but when I try to lift my hands they stick to the wheel.
"And don't think of applauding," it says, leaning back
in its chair. "I'm not here to be admired, but to disrupt."
Yeah, yeah, I sigh, thinking I should jolt this painting
out of the car, into moods and memories and minutes,
laundry and rent, the daily slog, thinking I need to eat,
get gas, go to the bathroom, stretch, rest, figure out
where I am, looking for an exit and turning up my music.
Copyright © 2005 Jason Koo All rights reserved
from Green Mountains Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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