Goya’s Fight with Cudgels
They meet on an open field, north of the village,
on a peaceful morning, with official permission,
to bash out each other’s brains.
One bleeds from scalp and eyebrow, struck
by a lucky backhand. The other raises a
weak defensive elbow while both swing
wildly from the heels. Or would, if they
had heels. Their lower legs have gone missing.
No matter. Neither intends to flee.
A couple of distant cattle might or might not
be paying any attention. Nobody else.
Except the invisible painter, sitting nearby
for a waist-high view of the backlit pair who,
from this perspective, loom heroically large.
At home, Goya, old and deaf, pulls up a chair
to gaze at his mural, too big for this modest room.
The men tower like the mountains and the clouds,
colossal. But terrified. Stupid. Doomed.
James Swafford has recently begun writing poetry after a forty-year career teaching other people’s poems, mostly at Ithaca College in New York. He lives in Toronto.
The Ekphrastic Review
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