Capsule is a weekly series featuring the writing of Robert Gibbons
No saben el camino
[Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), 1810-20
Etching, drypoint, burin and burnisher on wove paper, 19 x 15 cm;
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]
An Invisible Rope
I saw daybreak. Sun limned the massive cloudbank, a nimbus one could read good tidings into for the upcoming holiday season, & true, mass media kept harping on the optimism we should all collectively feel about the rise of retail sales in-store & online. Already disassociating myself from that propaganda, continued down through the center of town, where daybreak hadn’t broken yet, & two lines lined up practically, but not quite perpendicular to one another on either side of Preble Street. As expected, those against the soup kitchen wall extended along the sidewalk past the service entrance. At least I could see their faces. But on the other side, three-times as long a line swung away from the massive building kept daybreak at bay & temperatures below freezing at 190 Lancaster. (Damn, when I swung around on Cumberland, a third line appeared on Elm in front of Labor Ready, an enterprise with a billion dollar a year in “sales” of temporary “help.”) Talk about underbelly of America. All three lines got to me. Hollowing out the holidays even more than innate skepticism about good will toward men at this Time of year. But it was the snaky line wending its way away from Refugee Services brought up the image Goya etched, No saben el camino (They don’t know the way), picturing an abject group of people all tethered with a rope around their necks, staggering together. This group didn’t move. Doors wouldn’t open for another two hours. There was an invisible rope, however, visible.