These are not the black paintings

from Goya’s house of the deaf

but ours:

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

and signaling

nothing but his still posture.


A bird  (the Gullah say instinct )

who has stayed here, bearing witness

long before this —

but living

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”.






  1. Wendy,

    I love the deft way you have incorporated the art of divining/dowsing…
    “dowsed but left

    to divine another path”

    The ‘witches’ reminded me of water witches who were masters of the craft.

    That usage helps to enhance the sense of the ancient even as the mention
    of the floods is as timeless as today, as Harvey still hovers over Texas
    dropping not inches but feet of rain.

    Then I remember your times of drought in the desert, followed by floods.

    “A bird (the Gullah say instinct )

    who has stayed here, bearing witness

    long before this —

    but living

    latent within us.”

    There is a presence about this poem that is palpable. The painting you chose
    is perfect. Your handling of the pen, likewise!



  2. Hi Sarah

    thank you do much, as always, for your wonderful comment and always taking the time to read and contemplate my poetry. It means a great deal to me. I worry over climate change and what it has done and is currently doing to our environment. This present hurricane/storm is epic and has surpassed all the records. We have been warned before this of such weather and the enormity of its consequences. Within us, I believe there is an innate connection to nature if we cultivate it and listen. Unfortunately, those in power, do not. We live in our own house of the deaf and nature is trying to tell us to wake up with warning signs. There is much to hear even in her silence, if only we take the time, pray and meditate. Again, thank you!!


  3. Thank you so much Maryse,

    I deeply appreciate your kind thoughts and for taking the time, always, to read my work! It means a lot to me!

    Take care


  4. Hi Sue

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this piece! I ,too, love that drawing by Gustave Dore. He is one of my favorite 19th century illustrators. Pen & ink is a wonderful medium for certain thematic drawings and experiences.

    Glad you stopped by,
    and again thank you!


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