To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Coda: Eight Poems in Black, after Goya

[N.B. What began for me with 50 Caprichos after Goya & has continued with variations on “The Disasters of War” will end with this Coda, first sketched in Madrid 2007, in the shadow of his darkest, brightest works. (J.R.)]

two women watch
a man    his hand
under his cloak
or in his pants    the act
that causes one
to grin, the other
wryly looking on
as in a dream

a procession of
old whores & madams
bearing fardels
& a gallant
from a former time
lined up along the base
of a grey mountain
holy crones
& well-laced fathers
of the inquisition.

A Pilgrimage for San Isidro

who but the dead
can scream so
with their eyes rolled back
their mouths
like black holes
whom a blind man leads
strikes a guitar
& to his left
two men in black
two women in half-white
without a face

devouring his sons
whites of his eyes
as brilliant as
the red blood flowing
from the severed
blood on his hands
his penis hot
& throbbing

man fighting man
with cudgels
drawing blood
a stream of red
across his face
& sinking
ever deeper
into the mud

a poor dog
hidden in the brown
& yellow mud
that could be clouds
– the way they suffer
without sound –

The Witches Sabbath (1)

Satan as a great
goat    black
& holding court
before a ring
of men & women,
too deformed
from watching
the small figure
covered with
white shroud,
& at the edge
a young boy,
almost cut
from sight
the only
gentle soul,
whose screaming
mother hollers
at the assembled

The Witches Sabbath (2)

red more brilliant
than her eyes,
the blanket set across
her mouth,
poor doll & witch,
& yet the eyes
are turning backwards
in her head,
the one who flies with her,
a rock between
his teeth, a tongue
made stone,
the yellow wind
spiking his hair,
who has no choice
but points a finger
at a hill in space,
a city on a hill,
that vanishes.
Nothing has changed
since then,
try as we will,
nor will it please you,
friend & father,
the ragged soldiers
aiming guns,
the line of pilgrims,
barely seen,
circling the lonely fell,
the old witch
like a sibyl
arisen from your dream
ready to tell it all.
* Originally published in J.R., Concealments & Caprichos, Black Widow Press, 2008.

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