After Francisco de Goya’s painting, The Third of May 1808 in Madrid: The Execution at Principe Pío by

Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:47 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

After Francisco de Goya’s painting,

The Third of May 1808 in Madrid: The Execution at Principe Pío

Goya admired the maverick monarch Napoleon, but when his army invaded Spain, Goya experienced war firsthand. In addition to conveying sympathy for the victims of war, he showed how the French soldiers were also victims, with their “just follow orders” mindset. Some soldiers cover their eyes in disbelief and choke on gun smoke and blood liberating from the luckless. The blood reaching the soil, penetrating the earth, lurching to its core, mingling with other roots and life in which God exists. The cells of the blood, the pebbles on the ground, the fine outerwear of the guards, and the night which holds each man there and can do nothing else. Cued: five prisoners, including a tonsured monk. On one side: a mound of three dead. On the other side, a group awaits the firing squad which functions as a single unit. Each of the Spaniards bearing a long shot-gun—their hat-shaded faces are staring into the eye holes, their stance is leaning balanced on a collective bent knee. Kneeling prisoner in the center—lit by a lantern between the killers and the killed. His hands palms-up to Madrid’s night sky in vain, for the group of dead beside him will rise to eight. How close we stand to death, to our rites, where brooding men loom in their top-hats and long jackets. Their full sheaths swinging beside them as they reload and take down men as easily as a tree struck by lightning. The bark flings off the tree bole, exposing the white inside. The blood of these war-captured stains the ground disappears into a stronghold of roots destined to rot to the core, the core of the earth where men trod mindlessly over the amount of blood it takes for the work to be done. They will not reap what they sow, but the cells will descend and inhabit the soil, inhabit the land which grows the bread that these soldiers will deliver home and break for their children to eat.

Janée J. Baugher

Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction, Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and she teaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland will publish her academic book, Ekphrastic Writing: A Guide to Visual-Art-Influenced Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

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