from THE CAPRICES, AFTER GOYA
Because she was susceptible
What is mistook is taken. Captive
under the interrogation of lamplight,
in Caballero Garcia’s siffle of piss,
a nameless girl, gangrenous, bleached
white. Arise, oma, ummi, to give birth
on the Avenida del Prado (is it a boy?).
Velázquez’s buffoon son, Calabacillas.
Life conspires. There is no other way.
What a golden beak!
A bird’s eye so vivid it cannot think
of you or I, or beyond what is seen.
When it speaks the sound of a syrinx
tightens around a catapult-shaped bone.
Beware of false prophets at the pulpit.
Bittacus’s talk is all cheep cheep cheep.
The church fills with skulls and the sick
still huddle round for something to eat.
To rise and fall
Mistreated, he would subtend the sun.
Trick of axis. Gravity’s razor edge—
breath becoming thought, ambition.
He simply wanted to change the world
into himself. Superior to failure, he saw
otherness as opposition when stepping
on shoulders. Mad beyond its own law,
the avalanche that rises before falling.
And still they don’t go!
Calais wears the snakefoot of Boreas.
Coldest wind, nebular wind. Temper
of a falling wall. Calais dehumanises us
from they, flesh from flesh. The hunter
gathers her to go, but where? No Zephyr
in the West, no water in this jungle.
The boy inside a shipping container
holds up a picture of his dead uncle.
[James Byrne's most recent poetry collections are Everything Broken Up Dances (Tupelo, US, 2015) and White Coins (Arc Publications, UK, 2015). He is the editor of The Wolf. Forrest Gander writes that reading Everything Broken Up Dances is ‘like gulping firewater shots of the world’. The selection of poems sent here are from his next book The Caprices, a dialogic ekphrasis with Goya’s Los Caprichos.]
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