Abstract with Red Square

after Etel Adnan

And there, 
between clean walls
you assume 
the position,
angled toward 
the red squares 
on her canvases.

Into the oils 
of a new tense
she herself
days before 
had dissolved.

There, impasto:
her mountain.

Trimmed down 
to the first 

at every pitch,
patches scraping
against cobalt.
Edges opaque
until they refused.

she, too—
which is to say 
color latching 
to the seasons 
where meaning

Of this transition
the living are given 
no access.                                                                

You, turning 
away from 
the dry wall,
where nothing
tears through.

A red square
appears in your days
yet you know
not yet where.


Copyright © 2022 by Jenny Xie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The Lebanese American artist, writer, and activist Etel Adnan died in November of 2021. When I visited her exhibition at the Guggenheim, it had become a retrospective. Around the same time, I learned I was carrying a child—a realization that translated my mortality back to me in vivid, new language. ‘When you realize you are mortal you also realize the tremendousness of the future. You fall in love with a Time you will never perceive,’ Adnan once wrote. I think of her making the radical passage we’ll all one day make, hurtling onward into new forms.”
Jenny Xie