Julieta in Judgement
after a portrait by Irish artist Val McLoughlin
of his Spanish granddaughter, Julieta
The Julieta in this portrait won’t deign to bestow
the full-frontal view of her countenance,
nor will she deign to display any interest in beholding
more than a peripheral glimpse of our own –
we, whom she appears to deem
of less consequence than courtiers
and no better than footmen to attend to her whims.
Or perhaps she imagines we’re aspiring explorers,
there to beseech her to finance a fleet
of carracks and caravels for a perilous
expedition across uncharted seas,
but knows full well we are lacking collateral
and that all we could offer
is a doubtful promise to enrich her coffers
with the jade of China, pepper and rubies from India,
nutmeg and cloves from the Spice Islands,
cinnamon from Ceylon. Even
an assurance that, if all else failed,
we would enslave as a substitute gift
a million new souls for the Inquisition
and from a new world we would christen,
in Julieta’s honour, New Spain,
would elicit from her
no more than a smirk.
No Maria Theresa could have matched Julieta
in the art of the imperial gaze. No infanta
of Spain could have equalled her look of regal disdain.
Indeed, if the Julieta in this portrait
had been born prior to the fall of Granada
and the resulting expulsion of the Moors,
Isabella the First, Queen of Castile,
could have taken instruction from her
in how to silence and dismiss every supplicant with a glance,
as in the way Julieta regards us: askance,
with eyebrows arched, lips pursed,
nose upturned – is it our stench?
But, then, the posing Julieta comes to a decision and relents,
steps out of her portrait with a full-frontal grin,
grants us a thrown kiss as if to say
she was just having us on all along; springs
across the floor into her Irish grandfather’s arms –
a gladsome Galician child again!
Jack Grady is a founder member of the Irish-based Ox Mountain Poets. His poetry has appeared online or in print in Live Encounters; Crannóg; Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing; The Irish Literary Times; The Ekphrastic Review; Mediterranean Poetry; The Galway Review; Poet Lore; The Worcester Review; Dodging the Rain; Algebra of Owls; Skylight 47; North West Words; A New Ulster; Mauvaise Graine, and others as well as in several anthologies, the more recent ones being Poesia a Sul 1 (Portugal); 300K: Une anthologie de poésie sur l’espèce humaine (France); and Universal Oneness: An Anthology of Magnum Opus Poems from around the World (India). He read in Morocco in 2016 at the 3rd annual Festival International Poésie Marrakech and in Olhão, Portugal in 2019 at the 3rd annual Poesia a Sul festival, in both cases as the poet invited by the festival committees to represent Ireland. His poetry collection, Resurrection, which was published in the UK by Lapwing Publications in 2017, was nominated for the T.S. Eliot Prize, and can be ordered via the list of poets on the Lapwing Publications website or from the publisher’s direct link to the collection, which is at Jack Grady – Lapwing Store.
The Ekphrastic Review
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