–Rothko’s Street Scene

Perhaps he still had crumbs
on his lips, his collar, his lap
when he unzipped. Perhaps

he was still bound in half-sleep,
looking back at his memory
pressed into the mattress.

Perhaps the streetlamp’s inquisition
through the open window
persuaded the cracker-mattress

skyscraper to press its bald head
flat against the frame or the woman
horrified by its sight to boil

in her own skin, a red almost too orange,
crabs dumped across the Sunday news.
No one else is hungry or horny here.

The brown stripe of a man wedges
into a breezeway. A granddaughter,
her dress a swarm of chips clipped

from the thumb-moon, legs simmering
from ankle to shin to knee,
cooling to pink at the hemline,

her arm outstretched, elbowless,
impeding her grandmother’s path.
Rothko said he was no colorist

and a painting is not an experience.
Don’t be coy. Make me believe in this innocence
of nothing, the not-story of our lives.

Adam Vines teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and edits Birmingham Poetry Review. He is the author of two collections of poetry, The Coal Life (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) and Out of Speech (LSU Press, 2018) and is coauthor of two collections, According to Discretion (Unicorn Press, 2015) and Day Kink (Unicorn Press, 2018). His recent poems have appeared in The Hopkins Review, Five Points, Green Mountains Review, The Greensboro Review, and Tupelo Quarterly.