Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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When I watched the news and walked out of my childhood home for the last time, I didn’t look back at the pink and orange hibiscus—their huge stamen reaching for the sky. I didn’t see the brown door, sun-stained and blotched, desperate for a new coat of paint. I studied the grass, unnaturally green, admonishing the footpath. House of excuses, house of apologia.

When Goya, deaf, retreated to the Quinta del Sordo outside Madrid, it already had its name. The man who lived there before was also deaf. When I studied Lucia Joyce’s schizophrenia in Dublin, eight years before my daughter was born, I didn’t know my child’s mind would bear a similar affliction. The girl who lived in our apartment before us had pervasive developmental disorder and an aquarium with tropical fish. She watched their colors as they swam back and forth all day. The young man who’s moving in has Asperger’s and will be looked after by his twin sister down the hall. My daughter spends her life watching bright fur of puppets as they sing and dance across three screens. Perhaps Nietzsche was right when he theorized eternal return.

By most accounts, Goya, 74, painted the black paintings for himself. Some scholars claim they are frauds painted by his son, Javier. All that matters: their testimony of our brutality as we inhabit lives we never thought possible. Milgram proved how easy it is to obey, to push the buzzer.

Judith beheading Holofernes does not frighten me. I watched Saturn devour my child for nine years and now I watch as children suffer behind bars. When I close my eyes, all I see is Goya’s drowning dog. He’s stuck like Winnie in Happy Days but without speech. All that gold light above the quicksand—as if nothing can save us.  

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