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

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Vincent_Nubiola_Miro

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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.

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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.

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

John Brantingham: Five Poems About the Santa Ana Winds

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Still for a While

We get a Santa Ana
and wake to streets
full of branches
and trash and a palm tree

that’s crashed down
through the wrought iron fence
around the city yard.
Today, the air is still

for a while, but the winds
always come back,
or they have so far.
The train tracks are

covered in tumbleweeds.
This air that has come down
from the highland deserts
smells clean.

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News of the Weather

The first weather report I get
is when the airport shifts
its flight pattern directly over us,
and I know the winds are coming.
The breaks in our conversation
as the engines pass above
soon become natural and unnoticed
unless one of us points them out.
The eucalyptus across the train tracks
looks shaggy today. I wonder
what it will look like tomorrow.

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Just Us

The flags on top of the tax service
and immigration building are torn
to feathers by the Santa Ana winds,
and that feels like a metaphor

for something, but I’m not sure what.
The winds have always felt
more symbol than real to me.
They’re so dry they suck

the water right out of you.
We can see for miles across
the normally smoggy sky, and at night
we get stars. All of these things

might mean something like someone
is out there telling us something
with great clarity that I could see
except that I am limited to being just who I am.

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Baldy Winds

After the winds
have died down
here in the valley,
they are still rising
a mist of snow
blowing it off the top
of Mt. Baldy,
which I can see
headed straight up
Euclid Avenue.
It’s still early
on a Sunday morning,
and I’m the only one
out in the world
made clean
by the Santa Anas.
The dawn has no transition
through filtered air.
One moment it’s night,
and the next it’s full day.

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The New Neighbors

When the Santa Ana picks up,
some long haul truckers
pull off the freeways
and park in the neighborhood.

We can see their cabs
in the pale blue lights
of their computers
as they wait out the winds.

When we walk the dog
down the street in the evening,
we invade their space.
This is now their backyard.

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About the Author, John Brantingham: I was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and my work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. I have eleven books of poetry and fiction including my latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). I teach at Mt. San Antonio College.

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Image Credit: Impressions of Southern California by Chase Dimock