Three Goya “poems”

I am a poet only in the way that everybody is a poet and everybody can sing. I wrote poems as an adolescent and while at university and then gave up. Recently I’ve returned to writing poems. I write them as I did 50 year ago: I write them down almost as fast as I can type, and I hardly revise them. It’s virtually impossible, probably completely impossible, to write good poems like that, and so I don’t share my poems.

But suddenly—after writing the blog above on why Plato banished poets from his Republic—I’m minded to do so. Here are three poems, all inspired by a conversation with a friend who had an original Goya with him in central London. It was a head and shoulders of a depressed woman wearing black. The painting was very dark apart from her earrings, the subject of one of the poems. It’s not one of Goya’s well known paintings, but I liked it. I can’t find a copy of it, but to put you in the mood here is a Goya portrait of a woman. She too looks depressed, but the painting is not as dark as that of my friend.

Goya portrait


A Goya

An old man walks through London

With a Goya under his arm.

The picture is of a beautiful woman,

A depressed woman.

She wears black

Her hair is black

The background is brown.

But what you see first

Is the sparkle of her earrings

And her broach.

Goya painted the woman twice.

One picture he kept,

One he gave to her.

She destroyed it, instantly.

“But when I think of the picture,”

The old man says,

“I think of the sparkles.”



Goya, the very old, and the very young

We are in the waiting room

At the Department of Health.

My friend, an old man,

Has a Goya with him,

A real one,

A picture of a depressed actress

Very beautiful.

We are talking of our mothers

His dead, mine demented.

“Do you know,” he asks,

“That the very old

Are like he very young.

Babies change fast

Different from one month

To the next

And so do the very old


Going down fast,

Dying before your eyes.”

I didn’t know

Until he told me

But he’s right.

Goya knew as well.



The woman in the Goya might have been my mother


An old man walks through London

With a Goya under his arm.

It’s a portrait of a depressed woman,

An actress.

The old man is a friend, we talk.

We talk about his mother.

“She lived to 94,

A very wise woman.

In her last year

She developed delusions.

I rang her every day.

She would say,

‘I’m glad you rang,

Your brother is dead.’

‘No, he isn’t,’ I’d say,

‘We spoke a moment ago.’

‘Oh good,’ she would reply


She gave me this picture.

That’s why I treasure it.

She might have been the woman.”

He walks on

With the Goya under his arm.



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