John Brantingham: “Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola”





Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola

Before he started painting, Miro had 
a nervous breakdown, which seems rational
given that this was Spain, and a quiet hell
had cracked open in Europe, his world gone mad,
and what could he do but watch and resist
as Franco and Adolph got together 
to dream up cynical new ways to sneer
at what could be if we would just coexist.
And then Miro started to paint, which seems
more than rational. More than sane. Portrait 
of Vincent Nubiola was an early piece.
Miro catches him in a pipe-smoking daydream,
his elbow resting on a table with fruit,
a tulip, and wine. He’s at the kind of ease

that Miro must have dreamed of. Fields stretch
out beyond him, fields where he will no doubt
return for the day’s work, worrying about
things that matter while Miro will sketch
and paint and find a place where he can stand
against what is coming. He will turn 
toward the surreal, even as Europe’s dictators
call it degenerate, and it is banned.
I imagine the two of them, Miro 
still young, but wise enough to be alarmed
at what is building. Nubiola is
a professor of agriculture who knows
Miro’s genius, a man with training and wisdom.
They sit and talk of the coming hostilities.

“It feels like the end of everything that’s right,”
my imagined Joan says. Vincent replies,
“Every generation feels this. It’s an endless fight.”
And Joan can foresee an endless night
of terror. He thinks of all who will die
and to him it is the end of everything that’s right.
And Vincent remembers stories of knights
in his childhood and King Alfonso’s lies,
and he knows this is an endless fight.
Old men get a sexual thrill at the sight
of young men dying. They get off on cries
of anguish, and maybe it’s the end of right,
but he tells Joan they’ll keep moving despite
the horror of old men’s pornography.
This, Vincent tells Joan, must remain an endless fight
because these old men live for this kind of blight,
but this world was made for Miro’s kind of beauty.
We must keep going to keep everything right.
That is the beauty of our endless fight.



About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.


Image Credit: Joan Miro “Portrait of Vincent Nubiola” (1917) Public Domain

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