These are not the black paintings
from Goya’s house of the deaf
muddy water, blackened skies,
boats of people drifting somewhere
and branches floating like sprigs of lightning
dowsed but left
to divine another path,
or the spindled fingers of witches
wound with swamp moss, hungering to curse
those who’ve offended them, their Sabbath
of flooding. Tonight an egret leans
into the wind, awash in green currents of grass
nothing but his still posture.
A bird (the Gullah say instinct )
who has stayed here, bearing witness
long before this —
latent within us.
The Great Spanish artist, Francisco Goya, painted a serious of dark and ominous works in his later years being totally disillusioned with the world and fearing he was on the brink of insanity. He settled in a house that had been known as ” the house of the deaf man”. Here, he hibernated, practically a hermit, haunted by visions of doom, witches, destruction and other monstrous things that entered his imagination. At first, the paintings were not entitled and painted as murals on the walls of his dwelling. Later because of their gloomy and disturbing content, they became known as “The Black Paintings”. The illustration, however, that accompanies this painting is by 19th c. artist, Gustave Dore, and simply chosen for its eerie and provocative effect, particularly the haunting spirit of its ink and pen strokes, its climatic darkness. Something that seemed to echo the impressions of this poem quite effectively. And as the speaker says, “these are not the black paintings from Goya”.