“The Rothko Room” by Anca Rotar

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

I met my friend at the Tate Modern.
He had a school assignment.
He was supposed to go to the Rothko Room
and write about whatever feelings
he experienced there.

“Let’s look at the other stuff first,” I said.
I showed him Max Ernst’s “Forest and Dove.”
I couldn’t help but launch into a monologue
about the significance of birds in Max Ernst’s work.

Then, I said, “Wait, she’s here, too,”
and showed my friend something by Dorothea Tanning.
She was Max Ernst’s wife,
who lived to be a centenarian.
In one of her last interviews
she said that she missed him.

“And you just have to see the Paul Delvaux,”
I told my friend.
Delvaux always painted the same woman –
someone he’d loved in his youth
and couldn’t forget –
a scar upon the memory,
the one that never was.

However, since it turned out
that the Delvaux was out on loan
to another gallery,
we made our way to the Rothko Room.

It was dark.

The large canvases had titles like
“Black on Maroon”
or “Red on Maroon”
and that was exactly what they looked like.
I knew I was missing something.
I stared, hoping it would come to me.
I tried to eavesdrop on the teacher
who was there with his students.
“So, how do you feel?” I asked my friend.
He shook his head and answered,
“I don’t like this.”
I said, “Let’s get out of here.”

It turns out I’m quite okay
with not getting Rothko.




Anca Rotar lives in Bucharest, Romania, and writes poetry and stories. Her work has been published in several online magazines. You can find her on Instagram at @ancarotar5

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