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Juliet Brewster

I hate to keep 

I hate to keep
returning to this place
devotion drives me to it.
The unanswered
void is the center
of it—void because it begins
with a V like vagina
—not the vulva,
the hole.

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.
It’s pen-shaped.
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
burned through
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
more Americans
than know it
poor secret-keepers.
Poor victims can’t count
our injustices.
Can’t fathom the void.
Bore yourself to it. Eagre.

The earthquake
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
of kindergartners
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
the flood.
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.
Divinity pretends
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
a beginning
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
on crosses.
(Is it worth it to
show you how Goya
hangs bodies
on crosses?)

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.

London, 1960.

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 their thread.

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 border.

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.

46. Correccion
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 Baharona.

61. Volaverunt
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 Castilian hills.

The witch is riding on the lame devil. The miserable devil, whom everybody laughs at, is often useful after all.

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.

Translations of Goya’s commentary by Roberta Finlayson Samsour, from Francisco Goya y Lucientes: Caprichos, introduced and edited by Miroslav Mícko, Spring Books. 

Juliet Brewster graduated from Bennington College in 2012. She works at a cheese shop in Edmonds, WA.