Standing in the Rothko Chapel

Catherine Chambers


2015

In another life, I had Houston. 
I was wearing the wrong shoes 
trying to walk quietly through 
The Menil Collection, 
where you aren’t allowed to get married—
something I didn’t know—
with whoever I loved at the time.  

I stare at the paintings to avoid 
staring at him, my eyes taking 
shelter underneath the “DO NOT TOUCH”; 
I am being tested. 

Outside by the lily pond the sun
is cavernous, people run.
We are overdressed for this
Broken Obelisk in June,
but he has something he wants
to show me after we talked all night once
about some poet I liked and some artist
he liked, and circled around to Rothko.  

There is no talking in the chapel. 
He signs us in:
Typhoid Mary & Joseph Stalin. 
The receptionist doesn’t laugh,
but we do, into hands near the wall
like spit or sins too near the holy books.
There is no talking in the chapel. 
I am being tested.

2017

In another life, I had Houston.
Then again, we all had Houston
in another life. Now we laugh
at labels that cry “water resistant.”
I was wearing the wrong shoes
trying to walk quietly through
The Menil Collection,
where you aren’t allowed to get married—
something I didn’t know—
with whoever I loved at the time.

In my head, the lily pond jumps
its banks to the lawn choking
on the downpour.
“Too much of a good thing.”
The lily pads creep towards
the wooden floors; thunder
menaces the glass panels in the ceiling.

There is no talking in the chapel.
The pond moves quietly at first, out
of respect. Emboldened as it is
by the squall. It taps on the door
where there is no receptionist,
no sign-in sheet. A drip would sound like
a scream; the roar of floodwater
ten thousand. The chapel remains
undamaged, the internet says.


 



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