I hate to keep
I hate to keep
returning to this place
devotion drives me to it.
void is the center
of it—void because it begins
with a V like vagina
—not the vulva,
Fall into it.
In it thoughts
are like lovers or
residues of them
some you return to
over and over and marry them
some are better
avoided. Its vulnerability
drives me to it. I drives it.
It’s a cigar.
I want it in
my right hand I can’t
think in my right hand
I’m not quick on my feet.
Let me make it
cigar-shaped for you
I want it in my right hand.
Someone looking at the moon thought
the moon was the hole
the old alcoholic’s sweater—an ember
dropped off the tip of his
cigarette as he dozed off.
The old alcoholic
was God, unaware, which
brings me back to me—wary of weary
of unaware of God
who is of course a void.
This talk about God
is defensive. When
I call it God
I’m talking to myself. My God,
God was the only name
I could think of
to give to my nothing.
God is my penis-envy.
And he was cigar-shaped.
And God is also
the sadness you
have to hide from God.
I tried to
explain the sadness
as phantom or as repeated
miscarriage of justice
by man but
just wasn’t in it.
I called it guilt;
I didn’t know
my crime was a sex crime.
I called it the inherent
racism in the mixed-race
child, which, of course, I am one
and my father
is one and so are
than know it
Poor victims can’t count
Can’t fathom the void.
Bore yourself to it. Eagre.
that is due to hit
the west coast
is due to split it.
Cascadia Subduction Zone
another void. The earthquake
when I was in sixth grade
one year after three airplanes
hit two towers plus one pentagon
was not the earthquake
we are waiting for.
The sadness has something
to do with the waiting
Wait for it.
I was out
in the hall, finishing
a math assignment
and I saw the school secretary, Marla,
dive under her desk
—I could color
the memory sexy for you—
something to do with
her blouse or her butt sticking up
out of fear—before I
disconnected the rolling hallway
from the thunder
I thought were
running in the hallway.
I think I looked to
Marla first to tell them
No running in the halls.
No one died,
of course, maybe
one old man of shock,
and that’s how we knew
it wasn’t the big one.
Cascadia Subduction Zone
a 740-mile fold
between twin tectonic
plates that carry The Pacific
Ocean and the west edge
of the American landmass.
The essay begins here, on stubbornness.
It’s a megaquake
the big one we’re waiting for
a revengeful nerd-term
for totally awesome.
Total destruction and then
If you waited for it you were
already doomed. This is divination.
Fall into it.
Justice wants you
to know that Washington’s
west coast is inhabited
primarily by Indians and that you
put them there. I want God
hard and hot in the center of the earth.
The flood wants a way in.
God wants to warn me
he could break me.
to know there is
an end because who cares
about the beginning
of sadness not the victims
we need to know
where it ends unless
offers a plausible
insanity plea and
the victims are victims
of law and order.
God sent his Son
to show us how insanity
can keep us
out of jail, if
we look good hung up
(Is it worth it to
show you how Goya
Remember that good means white.
Remember we are marred. And when you
remember the void, remember suction.
I want you to kneel, Drink from it.
Los caprichos, F. de Goya, 1799
44. Hilan delgado
Three witches sit together spinning yarn. All are
hideous, their faces sunken pits of wrinkles out of
which protrude a nose, brow, tooth or jutting lower
lip. The witch seated in a chair is dressed like a much
younger woman. Her bare arms and neck are at once
gnarled and brawny. Over her left shoulder, a bundle
of babies is strung from the ceiling.
They weave finely, and not even the devil can break
24. No hubo remedio
Here, a prostitute is shown atop an ass, escorted
through a crowd to be burned at the stake. She is
barefoot and bare-breasted and wears a large cone-
shaped cap so heavy she must hold up her head with a
crutch. Her eyes are closed, her mouth down-turned.
One of the two officers flanking her right side is
gazing at her. His expression does not betray delight,
as do the faces of several of the men on foot in the
crowd, but rather something closer to pity. The lower
two thirds of this etching are densely populated, but
only the pom-pom on the woman’s tall cap reaches
into the top section.
This woman is being condemned to death. After
passing sentence they will lead her through the streets
in triumph. And she deserves it, too. But if they do so
in order to put her to shame, they are wasting their
time. Nobody can be shamed who knows no shame.
41. Ni mas ni menos
A monkey paints the portrait of an ass, while
simultaneously painting the ass white. Only the
palate, the brush, and the ass’s head are white, and the
rest of the etching is gray from the aquatint technique
Goya is credited with inventing. The ass is seated like
a man. On the canvas, the monkey has painted the ass
in a wig, though he wears none. This etching is one of
a series of Goya’s political satires criticizing the
principe de la paz, Manuel de Godoy. Godoy was a
notorious social climber and playboy. Two of his
many mistresses included the Queen María Luisa,
who helped him to fake his lineage in order to gain
entrance into the court, and The Duchess of Alba, the
subject of several of Goya’s paintings and his
rumored lover. The scandal-rousing “La maja
desnuda,” a highly erotic painting of the Duchess, was
commissioned by Godoy. Goya, as appointed court
painter, also produced several portraits of Godoy.
He did well to have his portrait painted. At least those
who did not know him and have never seen him will
know him for what he is.
12. A caza de dientes
A young woman stands on tiptoe to extract a tooth
from the mouth of a hanged man. Even with her
fingers in his mouth, she seems to be trying to stay as
far from the body as possible; with her other hand, she
holds a handkerchief to her face, she is tilting her head
back, her face twisted away from him, only her eyes
directed toward the task of her right hand. The light of
the moon comes from behind the hanged man so that
his garment and face are illuminated white, as is the
hand in his mouth, where nearly all else is in shadow.
The rope from which he is hanging is only barely
visible, but the vertical axis it suggests is carried
through him down to his bare toes. His bound hands
hang down and the curve of his arm underscores the
woman’s arm reaching up. Other than the two figures,
the scene is very dark. Just visible are the hanging
block several inches below the man’s feet and the
few low clouds scuffed across the night sky to create
an even eerier mood. The etching was intended as a
criticism of the superstitious practices of the times.
The teeth of a man who has been hung are
indispensable for spell-binding. Without this
ingredient, nothing succeeds. A pity that people
believe such nonsense.
18. Y se le quema la casa
The flame of a candle sets fire to the wooden chair
it is hanging off the back of. An old drunk looks on,
seemingly oblivious to the impending catastrophe.
He is in the midst of removing his clothes for bed; he
has gotten one arm out of his jacket and his shirt is
unbuttoned, but he appears to be having some trouble
with his pants. He wears a bemused expression on his
face; a half smile with eyebrows raised and lids half
closed. Goya explains that he is talking to the candle.
As in etching #12, the drunk and the candle are the
only lit figures and the rest of the scene is in shadow.
He can’t even take off his trousers properly, nor stop
talking to the candle, till the city fire brigade brings
him to his senses. That’s what wine can do.
4. El de la rollona
In the background of this etching are two large basins
and a figure throwing all his weight into supporting
the idiot child who is the main focus of the scene.
The idiot has a thick leather belt around his waist,
which connects somehow to the two leather straps
thrown over the shoulders of the man holding him up.
He stares directly at the viewer, his wide unfocused
eyes orbs under the bushy eyebrows. He has the index
finger of his right hand in his mouth, between his
front teeth and upper lip and is holding it in place with
his left. The weight implied by the crossed diagonal
axes the two figures form is striking. The idiot leans
impossibly forward, his feet and calves form an acute
angle and his knees are locked. The other leans in
direct opposition, we see him from behind. A detail on
the latter’s sleeve forms a third axis, which describes
support. The arm is visible only from shoulder to
elbow. It draws a line intersecting with the idiot’s
in the lower left corner to the exact center of the top
Indulgence, excessive humoring and pampering turn
children into capricious, stubborn, vain, greedy, lazy
and intolerable creatures. They grow up and remain
children. Here’s one of them.
43. El sueño de la razón produce monstruos
A young scholar has fallen asleep at his desk. Owls,
bats, and bobcats crowd around him, their eyes fixed
on him. More and more fly in from the distance.
Fantasy abandoned by reason begets impossible
monsters; united with it, it is the mother of the arts
and the origin of their marvels.
Five wizards are deep in their magic. They channel
some knowledge from their goat-headed master who
sits at the center of their circle. Demons swarm.
Without correction and censorship you won’t progress
at any faculty. At the faculty of the Black Arts there
is need of special talent, industry and application,
mature age, subordination and obedience to the
teachers of the great wizard that holds the seminary at
butterfly wings on the head of the girl
The group of witches that hold this fashion puppet as
a base is more a decoration than a necessity. Some
heads are so filled with explosive gas, that they need
no witches to help them to rise in flight.
66. Allá va eso
A witch, a cat, a snake, a broom all atop the back
of the devil, all nude above a cityscape and rolling
The witch is riding on the lame devil. The miserable
devil, whom everybody laughs at, is often useful after
77. Unos á otros
Two men ride on the backs of two men, a fifth
crouches under a bull costume. The four visible faces
are sunken, almost skeletal. They are lipless, their eyes
hollows, cheekbones high and noses scarcely more
than nostrils. The man whose head and shoulders rise
the highest is spearing the bull; he wears a white wig.
Curves in the crosshatching of the clothing of the two
standing men weave them together to form a wedge-
shaped mass opposing the little bull.
Such is the way of the world. One laughs at the other
and together they play at bullfights. The one who
yesterday took the part of the bull is today a toreador.
Fate directs the festivities and apportions the roles
according to his changing caprices.
56. Subir y bajar
Fate or the Devil is grasping a figure by the ankles, the
figure, in turn, is grasping two plumes of smoke. Its
hair is smoke. Two others have been thrown already.
Fate treats very scurvily those who court him. He
rewards the strenuous climb with a puff of smoke; and
whoever reaches the top is punished with a fall.
13. Todos caerán
Young prostitutes pluck feathers from their john.
And the strange thing is that those who fall do not
learn from the example of those who fell before them.
But there is no help for it, they will all fall.