Staining the Canvas

MarE Leonard

After blood runs down my legs,

Mom says, "You have your friend,"

hands me a pad to hook around my waist.


At MOMA, Rothko's rectangle bleeds,

dancing like a free spirit

toward a yellow one.


I call my period my friend but she

betrays me, running

beyond the tampon, dirtying my life.


Rothko worked by staining the canvas,

layering, creating ephemeral poetry.


"You're a woman now, "Mom says,

"Women bleed the first time

they make love."


I need to write tragic poetry

nothing ephemeral, shocking narratives,

street girls, sluts lifting skirts, starving for sex.


On a Rothko site, I click on a canvas,

pretend to sprawl on a solitary bench,

stare straight up, watch blocks of red, orange

a mirage, appearing out of no where


Rothko's white rectangle moves like a cloud

bleeding into a cobalt blue sky

Something, some thing inside, made me cry.


The people who weep before my paintings

have the same religious experience

I had when I painted them.


Pregnant with my first child, I bleed

all over the bathroom floor,

My baby dead in a moment, the nurse says,

It's for the best.


The doc scrapes my uterus

so I bleed and bleed.

Down the hall, newborns cry.


Rothko told journalists,

he moved to the city

to bum around and starve a bit.


I try to starve     no toast,

no soup   no triple layer cake.

Leave me the fuck alone.


I click  on a Rothko,

get lost in the luminous,

moving, bleeding shapes.


Read about his suicide: Rothko

found in his cavernous studio,

in a pool of blood 6 x 10 wide.


He heard no bird songs, no train whistles,

left no note. A friend asked,

How can a friend do this to a friend?


My baby dead, I want to pull

the wires from my arms,

leave no note, see no friends,


Wear only my white hospital gown

like wings to fly.

Mary Reading-Yonkers, NY, 5-17-2014.jpg

Mare Leonard lives in an old school house overlooking The Rondout Creek. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches through the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT program at Bard College. She has published four chapbooks of poetry and a new one, The Dark Inside the Hooded Coat, will be published shortly at Finishing Line