Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Interpreting Rothko

Susan Jane Atkinson

Faced with a choice I am torn between
no. 8, 1953, lilac and orange over ivory

and untitled, 1956, which if I were
to name it would suggest something like

puffs of snow or sheep’s coat sandwiched
between charcoal and ruby. I am sure

neither would suit Rothko from the softness
of their manner though my delicate musings

about the ivory would probably also fall flat,
its edges a lath frame around a window

cutting blushed-peach-ripeness of
sunset settling into the Aegean Sea

while miles below the cliffs, past the winding streets
of a Greek village, where in the last of the light

paled to strips of lilac, women weave olive branches
into fences that stop goats from pattering off rocky ledges

and the wind dies in a curtsied hush, barely audible
beneath the bold slabs of abstract colour.


Susan Jane Atkinson’s poems have won a number of awards, including first prize in the National Capital Writers Contest and the Carleton University Literary Prize. Her poems have appeared in such journals as the Antigonish Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, the Dalhousie Review, Bywords, the New Quarterly, Room, and ottawater. Her first full-length collection, The Marta Poems, is forthcoming with Silver Bow Publishing.