Footnotes to Fodor’s Spain
Start, everyone does, from the Prado.
The painter of the aristos
gaily in blue and rose
also painted the Third of May:
prisoners being herded
like cattle up the hill;
the firing squad bending
intently to take aim;
the insurrecto who opens
his arms wide to his death.
But this other is no hero:
he looks at it out of the corner
of an eye, and bites his fingers.
And witches, the old ones . . .
Their hideous features ask,
Why have we been damned?
Are we not also His children?
And the half-buried dog,
head and neck straining
at heaven, that light!
Can it be that in all the universe
there is no one, nothing that sees and cares?
Work in the morning,
in the afternoon make love.
Eat at Casa Botin,
Calle Chuchilleros 17,
the fish casserole, it’s good.
When you sit in the plaza
you are accosted by, in this order:
a beggar of middle age
who hovers and won’t leave
when your wife says “No,”
he answers, “Why no?”
a deaf-and-dumb man
with a card that says “Poet,”
a beggar woman in black,
another poet . . . this one mutters,
a Gypsy with an infant on her back,
a Gypsy boy, and others.
In Seville, across from the Cathedral,
you can discover America,
forest, farm, and mine
on paper, a thousand volumes!
A clerk would copy the report
written in malaria by a shaking hand,
of savages, snakes, and crocodiles,
and how, in this place, there was gold.
Senor, the only El Dorado
I have ever seen was the filling
in the smile of a tax collector.
How neat and clear it is,
the mapping and the writing,
the lines on the paper
moving in light like the sea.
“The most intelligent man in Europe”
explained the decline of the economy.
He said, “Listen carefully.
The interest in the national debt
is now equal to the entire budget
under Franco: 700 million.”
He spoke of the disasters of socialism,
the responsibility of the U.S.
to Europe. “It’s not Texas
or Maine that’s at stake when you vote
but Spain, France, Holland. . . all of liberty.”
But when he spoke of “the mistake
you made in the Philippines
by not supporting Marcos,”
your attention wandered
to the crows making a racket
nearby in the public gardens.
Hemingway says, there is always the touching
and “hombre” when the aficionado
recognizes a kindred spirit.
You don’t have to go to bullfights:
there is also the touching
and “hombre” when you ask the barman
if the service is included in the bill.
In order to get to Moguer
you will have to go to Huelva.
You can wait in the cafe
where flies walk on the cakes
and a boy who walks on crutches
because he has no feet, only stumps,
places a hand on the table
for balance, and asks for a cigarette.
Let us say, you arrive at Moguer . . .
There’s the statue, it could be anyone’s,
and his books. He would laugh and swear
and write in the margins.
There was a story he liked to tell
about the poet in Avila
who pointed to a tree, “What is it?”
“That,” he was told, “is the alamo.
You know, the tree you are always
writing about in your poems.”
A pen, a watch, eyeglasses,
the box from which the donkey
is said to have eaten hay . . .
The walk they used to take together?
The people who own the land
have fenced it off. Forget it!
It’s amazing, all the baggage
they get on the overhead rack:
suitcases, baskets, chickens.
There is a field lined with vines,
a hillside with olives.
The war was in all these places.
Two men inherited a field.
This one killed that one’s nephew.
They never spoke to each other.
They would neither forget nor forgive,
and still they shared in the field.
Otherwise, how could they live?
Copyright World Poetry, Incorporated Sep/Oct 1997
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