Rothko’s Harvard Murals by Mark Fleckenstein


Silence is so accurate.  

Phrasal somatic epiphany.  Innocence-stripped atonement.
The soul, its contortions

perceptual, susurrated.  Memory-scarred, recollected.
Transcendent, corporeal, autonomic. Disemboweled prayers.

“A painting is not an experience. It is the experience.”


Recipe for Art

Mark Rothko, Lecture at The Pratt Institute, 1958

A clear preoccupation with death – intimations of mortality

Sensuality – Our basis of being concrete about the world.
(It is a lustful relationship to things that exist.)

Tension – Either conflict or curbed desire.

Irony – The self-effacement and examination
(By which a man for an instant can go on to something else.)

Wit, play – The human element

A few grams of the ephemeral and chance



“I do not believe that there ever was a question of being abstract or representational.”

(The dark mood of the triptych was meant to convey Christ’s suffering on Good Friday, and the brighter hues of the last mural, Easter and the Resurrection.)

“It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again.”

(What he wanted was a presence, so that when you turned your back to the painting, you feel that presence the way you feel the sun on your back.)

“I think of my pictures as dramas.”


The past is simple; the present is difficult;
the future is even simpler.

Truth must strip itself of self.
A shadow looking back from the canvas.

One must go further, one must go further.
One must go first.

The result of my life is simply nothing
the whole wall red.

MARK FLECKENSTEIN was born in Chicago. Five states, a B.A. in English and MFA in Writing later, settled in Massachusetts. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he’s published four books of poetry: Making Up The World (Editions Dedicaces, 2018), God Box (Clare Songbird Publishing, 2019), A Name for Everything (Cervena Barva Press, 2020), and Lowercase God (forthcoming, Unsolicited Press, 2022), and five chapbooks: The Memory of Stars, (Sticks Press, 1995), I Was I, Drowning Knee Deep, (Sticks Press, 2007), Memoir as Conversation (Unsolicited Press, 2019), A Library of Things (Origami Poetry Project, 2020), and Small Poems (Origami Poetry Project, 2021).

© Maximus Magazine 2022

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