Black paintings

Rothko Chapel, Houston

To clear my ears of a ringing, insectile,
I swallowed once: it continued, cantillated,
and light filtered into the room, white,
fluorescing, through some glass up high
one could not see, spilled over an octagonal baffle
that matched the walls’ arrangement:
whitening everything, even the dark stone floor,
the heavy benches. The only sound
people entering, voices hushed subito,
and the percussion of their exits, and that
little hive in my ears: I sat, wondered how long
I might sit, how long the woman on the black
zabuton before me would kneel motionless:
how long before, in that same pose,
I’d lose patience. A bench scraped, someone rose:

and the dark panels did not change but became
somehow more still, more visible, purpled
into an ink blue, a black edged in oxblood.
I had wanted to come: how long till I
could leave? I felt the breath move within
my ribs, stood, circumambulated
once more the perimeter, the panels,
their thin washes. Was there more?
The door swished, an entrance or exit.
No people I knew. I wanted an emptiness,
but even more empty. The woman
on the zabuton would sit an eternal zazen.
The drone in my ears a personal music,
its tone having imperceptibly deepened:
no sign but the scrape of wood on stone,
paint in its obscure strokes, motes rising
in the light from that iterant door.