Meditation on a Painting
by Julio Galán
by Katherine Jackson
I float in a transport of turquoise and indigo.
Sleeping or dead—I can’t say which.
A heart breaks up like a galaxy over my ear, and
above my knees, a white flame drifts, almost cool.
Do I dream I am the arid land that bore me, my ocher
limbs her long ridges, sinuously shaded?
One foot is bare, with painted toes. Beyond them,
a cactus flower (toe-like itself) has opened
amid spiky leaves. My arm cradles a carved fetish
—dark and staring, with twisted roots for
as a child’s would a favorite doll in sleep.
I am a child, beatified, and encased in a mystic cubicle
of glass. A crew-cut of tiny lights encircles my body.
Who has put me here? Where is my mother?
Who has arranged my private symbology neatly
below me, my sacred story, the idols of my dream?
Those two Quattrocentro hills, umber miniatures,
caught by the sun—how odd they look, detached
their countryside! one could be a seal’s nose, wrinkled,
brown—it even balances a ball on its tip!
shoulders a verdant tree, bowed beneath a gleaming,
oversized apple. At the foot of each, a dark cave-mouth
protrudes (this doesn’t surprise me—but
is the dreamer
ever truly surprised by his own dreams?). To the left,
I see my little bed—it sits on top of another
covered with roses. My lips are roses.
They are girl’s lips (I could well be a girl), and parted
as when children breathe in sleep. My head is tipped
down in a rapture of sleep. A symmetry of delicate
curves delineates my eyes, nose, brows, and my skin
has the pallor of a tea-rose against the carmine
neckband at my chin. Carmine dots sprinkle
my nightgown, which is fringed with clusters
of dots at the wrists and skirt-hem, in the style of
our native Coahilan prints. I am oblivious—
sleeping or dead. I am a tea-rose, a petal,
a porcelain doll. I can see why people worship me.
Copyright © 2001 by Katherine Jackson.