One day a father walks in with his very young son.
Paintings become quizzes
of shapes and colors and things—
A red stripe. A mango. A pink square—
the boy turns a sudden right and sees Rothko’s No. 2:
two fields of color, one purple, one red,
on a gold ground.
A purple rectangle!
he says without prompting.
When I was young I dragged my father
to the front of airplanes to see
the little round window
and we would look out at the sky
so little and round
like the enamel charms
on your bracelet.
You showed me all of them that day—
Your hometown. Your father. Your rosary of Joan—
It was the first time I wanted to kiss your hand.
The father puts on his son’s mittens
and they bow their heads to the Chicago cold.
I am left watching Rothko’s No. 2:
a purple rectangle walled off
from rusted drainpipes and the grayish waves
of melting snow.
Charles Daston is a fourth-year at the University of Chicago majoring in English, and works as a docent at the Smart Museum of Art. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.