At the Museo Nacional
Por las velas, el pan y el chocolate
Yo combato, tú combates, él combate
--José Manuel Marroquín
When we found Garay’s painting, it was
In a glass display, not quite obscured
By antique implements to brew hot
Chocolate. The young round-faced servant
Was dressed to go shopping. She had a
Black shawl across her shoulders. Her skirt
Was clean and embroidered, and she might
Have passed for a lady, except for
Her bare foot stepping into the street.
Behind her, a gentleman in black
With a top hat turned to examine
Her figure, while a woman (his wife?)
Also dressed in black, half-hidden in
Shadow, politely looked at the door.
This, that poem tells us, is what we
All fight for: the candles, the bread, and
Chocolate. The land had already
Been distributed to wealthy men,
Who would make best use of it and pay
Garay to paint their portraits holding
Black canes with silver handles. Outside,
We were introduced to a poet
And a well-known actress—not known to
Us—and we squeezed into a van with
Your sisters and the poet to find
A good place to get broth or coffee.
La Candalaria was bulging
With tourists and vendors selling them
Souvenirs and arepas. A man
Dressed in a wool poncho circled the
Block, holding the reins of a llama.
It was getting cold. You shivered and
Wrapped your new shawl across your shoulders.
At one end of the street, Plaza de
Bolívar. At the other, mountains,
Green above powerlines and low clouds.
*Ironically or not, the painting by Epifanio Julián Garay Caicedo, Por las velas, el pan y el chocolate, (c. 1870) takes its title from these lines. Their author, Marroquín, later went into politics, as a conservative, and twice became president of Colombia.
George Franklin practices law in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida prisons. He has a new collection of poems, Remote Cities, coming out later this year from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, and he and Ximena Gómez have a new jointly written and translated dual-language collection, Conversaciones / Conversations, also scheduled for later this year from Katakana Editores. His website is https://gsfranklin.com/.
The Ekphrastic Review
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