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José Sanchez’s First Week in the Cell

ISSUE:  Winter 2008

A Spanish art historian has found evidence that suggests some Civil War jail cells were built like 3-D modern art paintings in order to torture prisoners. —BBC, January 27, 2003

Tilt the cot to make me spill,
mortar the floor with rubble. You can
box me in this narrow panic, but I
won’t talk, you decadent, you Bolshevik—
even with your tetchy lights that swerve
and warp the walls. My head’s off kilter
as a battered boat. But Christ’s
my compass, do you hear? This
is what comes of an empty throne,
of peasant rule, of anarchy:
these soulless spheres, walls of mad
lines askew, colors flashed like smut.
Or here, Dalí’s soft grotesques—unholy
afflicted oils. Oh, for one
true fruit, a salmon’s rapt, obedient
eye, sure as a hammered copper pot.
Or cork and holm oak held fast
to the burnt sienna of steepled hills.
Velázquez, anchor me with
crucifixion—Christ in lumens
to guide me past these devil’s
illusions. ¡Dios Mío! How could
you slaughter priests in prayer,
scorch the convents, bomb
the schools? Listen, you pig,
Generalissimo rattles your gates
to avenge wrong with right.
You too shall face the blood sun,
and you will burn; like these abominations
in cinnabar and umber, you will blaze.


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