Pintura Negra

Lucian Mattison

—After Francisco Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son"

We follow the porcelain
column of a child's arm

into time's mouth, desperate
Titan, runnel of inked tear

spilling from his eye.
This feels like the beginning

of knowing death. It digs
nails into the small

of a child's back, white-
knuckled grip of a father

arthritic from holding
dead things. The whole scene

weeps a blurred body,
brings a child into the world

embalmed by the deaf. Death
and artist, two skulking

lumps, billow canvas curtain.
These are the ghosts

that move marrow, fingers
that slip the knife point

into a notch of soft bone,
and lift the broken end

to our lips to drink
this dark paint that fills us.

More by Lucian Mattison

Goring

Maybe you saw me in the Picasso Museum,
how I stood for an hour in front of Gored Horse
thinking about Plaza de Toros in Pamplona

praying to the toro lidiado, how banderillas
dripped a rosary of blood down its obsidian pelt.
Yes, the grandstand was full. No, women

did not beg for the bull's ears when it finally stumbled.
The beast leaned against corrugated iron
catching its breath to the chagrin of spectators.

The torero was ushered off stage, tail tucked
between his legs. Birds glittering above, their little razor
blade wings cut sheet music on cerulean dusk.

Nothing about it was torturous, indeterminate;
it was chaines turns and feather steps until the goring.
Nobody won. When their bodies came together,

it only made sense: head upswept,
costumed body twirled on a horizontal axis,
horn the choreographer of blooding. It could be

I confuse sex with what is worthy of worship,
but in that museum I ran my tongue
along the deckle fringe of the bull's severed tail,

my body a banderilla thrust in reverence.
I was worshipping the arena in which we injure,
watch worn partners bleed before us.

Gin Gang Milonga

It follows the slug of bell tongue,
rattle against the apple
of an ox throat. Hoof after
hoof, breath chuffed,
is this how we are all yoked?
Death steps a tight circle
maintains the image of moving
forward, always pulling in
closer to the center
of this ancient structure,
lugging the rotation
of our hearts. It pulls in worship,
interminable ring of filling
its own fresh hoof prints, lifetime
spent dancing atop hay rot—
palpably wet, overwhelming.