Wrapped in his blanket of silence, the painter paints.
He pays no attention to the shrieks, screams, prayers,
curses, doesn’t even hear them. He sees their staring eyes
as the bull’s eyes at which anonymous soldiers, heads down,
backs to his easel, fire. He sees their mouths as black holes,
slashed across their faces. He sees the priest with his rosary,
but never hears the rattle of the beads or the firing squad’s guns
going off, filling the canvas with smoke, the square with blood.
Back home, in the Quinta del Sordo, his deaf man’s house,
he sits at the supper table, dwarfed by his painting of Saturn,
devouring one of his children. Beside him, old women,
hags themselves, suck soup silently from wooden spoons,
or fly soundless, black bats in the starless sky,
on the back of goats or on their witches’ brooms.
The great, open wounds of his paintings speak to us
of his hushed suffering, of the calamitous world that spawned
such violence, plague, famine, and fear. Plundering armies,
guerrilla warfare in back street and alley, torture, pillage,
rape, and suffering, pits filled with the dead and dying,
famine walking the streets, and all of it inaudible,
the nightmares of a little child, seen, but never heard.
His paintings speak to us, and they allow us to reconstruct
in our imagination, the many things that the painter, deaf,
but never dumb, could never hear, yet reproduced
using his paintbrush and his taciturn palette as a tongue.
Click here for Roger’s reading.
“It is said that deafness is worse than blindness because you are isolated in an inner world of terrible silence.” John O’Donohue, Anam Cara, p. 71.