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About this Poem 

"I was taken by Spanish poetry and painting in my early teens. I have another poem written before 'Paper Swallow' that may be useful to the reader, 'Capriccio'. Here is the opening stanza: Better if I had said in song what I wanted from a lady beneath her window or in a car or when she passed twirling a parasol. I saw Goya knew about suffering. He etched a baby a woman held by its wrists and ankles, its anus used as a bellows to flame up the fire. I was Goya’s child."

—Stanley Moss

Paper Swallow

Stanley Moss

Francisco Goya y Lucientes,
I dedicate this paper swallow to you and fly it
from the balcony of San Antonio de la Florida
past the empty chapels of the Four Doctors of the Church.
My praying hands are fish fins again,
one eye a lump of tar, the other hard blood,
my flapping lids sewed down to my cheekbones.
Time, the invisible snake, keeps its head
and fangs deep in the vagina of space.
Reason blinded me, banished me.
I fight the liar in me, selective desire,
my calling nightmares ‘dreamless sleep.’
Blind, coño, I made a musical watch,
the image of Don Quixote points the hours,
Sancho the minute hand. I hear the right time
when I listen to my watch play church bells.
Mystery this, mystery that.
I have another watch—wolves howling and dogs barking.
Now the invisible snake swims in the Ebro.
I look out of my window to see time
as if it were not in my mouth
and all my other two-timing orifices.
Don Francisco, I swear at the feet of the dead who maim me
and the living who heal me that the least sound,
a page turning, whips me. I owe my blindness,
this paper swallow, to you, because I lived
most of my life, a marrano, in your deaf house.
I pull open one of my eyes like the jaws of a beast.

Copyright © 2014 by Stanley Moss. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 8, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Stanley Moss