The Black Paintings

The Black Paintings
Amelia Gorman

The walls are wet and buzzing so we eat in the attic,
away from the oily black that drips
down the lip of an old man’s spoon.

Goya asks me “what?” three times while I find his brushes.
He summons the skin and bones
that live in the pantry with paint and patience.

When his hearing is fully gone I will write him automatic
letters from the ghosts that move my hands
like marionette strings bringing news across the oceans.

At night the sound of a whimpering dog keeps me awake
I creep the villa’s upper half looking for it,
I creak a door ready with bread crusts and water.

There at the back of the room my mother is modeling for Goya,
dressed in black. He doesn’t turn but her eyes
follow me everywhere and they look nothing like mine.

Back in bed a tree scrapes against my window,
in its secrets I hear a thrown punch, a crinkling newspaper,
laughing women, a hundred boots marching themselves to scraps.

The next morning I drink coffee and Goya stumbles
on the stairs, grips the railing with white knuckles,
blood slips out of the wood where his nails pierce it.

Amelia Gorman writes code, horror fiction, and poetry in Minnesota. You can read some of her recent poetry in Eternal Haunted Summer and Star*Line and find her on Twitter at @gorman_ghast.