Quinta del Sordo

March 14, 2019
A painting of a brown dog with just his head emerging from brown waters
A detail from Francisco Goya, The Drowning Dog, ca. 1820–23 / Museo Nacional del Prado

I wish that I could find myself asleep tonight
            in a house on the banks of the Manzanares,
                        the river that begins in the Sierra de Guadarrama

and flows through Madrid before joining
            the Jarama, the Tagus, and then emptying
                        four hundred miles away into the Atlantic,

the house christened Quinta del Sordo,
            the Villa of the Deaf Man, so named for the owner
                        who, in silence, walked its grounds

during the Spanish uprising of 1808
            and the Peninsula War, selling the home
                        to the artist Goya in 1819, who, deaf himself,

began to paint directly on the plaster walls,
            only his maid and lover, Leocadia Weiss,
                        accompanying him, her dark hair veiled

in Goya’s painting, one of the last
            of the sequence throughout the home,
                        the elder Goya rumored to be mad

at seventy-two, resigning to the country
            from the court in Madrid, the river cutting
                        the countryside like a slash from a French bayonet,

and Goya’s hand rising to the plaster walls,
            his brush tip wet with oils as Leocadia
                        poses in a funereal dress, Goya placing her

in the painting beside what is believed to be
            a burial mound, and though I do not know
                        what I would dream there in that home,

I would like for Goya’s dog to guide me,
            the dog of whom only his black muzzle
                        and head are seen rising above the ochre earth

that divides his painting horizontally in two,
            the context unknown as to whether the dog
                        is sinking into the earth or raising his head

cautiously from his den, and I imagine him
            nudging me, asleep in the lone bed centered
                        in the upstairs room, the dog, not tripping

over his paws or shaking his coat, but placing
            his chin on my thigh with the same pressure
                        with which someone might wake a child,

or lower the barrel of an adversary’s gun,
            and without a whimper the dog would lead me
                        past each painting, past Saturn Devouring His Son,

past The Fates, Two Women and a Man,
            past Duel with Cudgels, the background
                        of all of the paintings a kind of mottled gray,

less dark than the dog’s sleek fur, wet from a swim
            perhaps, his coat dark as the night sky, made darker
                        by the piercing of stars, their pin-prick light falling

on the Manzanares, on the banks of which
            the dog and I stand, his pearlescent eyes round
                        as the moon glinting on the river’s wet sand.

Jonathan Fink (jonathanfink.com) is professor and director of Creative Writing at the University of West Florida. He has published two books of poetry: The Crossing (Dzanc, 2015) and Barbarossa: The German Invasion of the Soviet Union and the Siege of Leningrad (Dzanc, 2016). His poems and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Poetry, New England Review, TriQuarterly, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, and Witness, among other journals.