Poem by Robert Levy

The Rothko on my office wall is simply titled, “Violet, Green and Red.”

Mornings, as I settle to work, it towers above me, a wordless ad


for vacations from the real world: three quadrilaterals stacked upon

each other, faintly ominous and remonstrative. I am working on


a financial ad, which fades away under my dozing fingertips

as I contemplate Rothko’s vastnesses. He got it right, I think, the furtive lapse


of one color into another, all that hulking purple brutality

pressuring a swath of dark green and buoyed up by a vermillion sea


seeking ascendancy. I consider how the painting is a successful ad

for itself. It could sell one anything from god to the lack of a god:


the investment doesn’t matter; it would be an irreproachable good.

The ad over which I labor stares at me, begging to be put to bed,


but Rothko’s sheer gigantism makes me sleepy, or rather, ambitious

in a way I am not. I would rather lash the page with fantastic hues


than with tired, required verbiage about “new” and “improved.” I would prefer,

in fact, to become violet, green and red, create an ad that did not refer


to anything in the world except the unending, insurmountable well

of colors that heave up from the mind in a relentless tidal swell


containing every human product there ever was or ever will be,

as though all of creation were being hawked simultaneously.


American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2013, Volume 30, Number 2