Monday, December 23, 2013

#111: "Sevilla" by John Poch

~This poem was first published in Passages North (2010).


Sign your name on a hundred tangerines
and leave them around the city. Please, in orange
trees, hang a dozen to mess with children
and nature. Your perfume tastes like windchimes. 

Jam and turn the rusty knife of your flamenco
through a concrete block when you are getting on
in years. For now, in the shadow of the bridge to Triana,
where no one has ever pledged love, pledge love.

From libraries, men in suits come for you with tickets.
They are not joking. You have been invited to come
and read old maps while they watch for your hands
that can hold the ten sides of the tower of gold.

The clock on the artillery factory holds fast at 7:30
and its weather vane of a man with a rifle
is stuck. But your love moves, and before you sleep
and fall into your dreams of storm-chasing, know

the tobacco factory has been turned into a school
where we can learn what happens after love.
Still, these buildings anchor history to air. Look
across town. A bullfight escalates into white hankies.

The people want an ear and ears, if possible,
and then they want the weight of death in white
on a chalkboard. They want you to write it,
extending your slender arm and calf.

What are the names of the mysteries?
A ceramic bell. Water without shame.
Lucks, plural. Sword heaven. Candles
on a hat. A peacock in a brass scale.

People believe that judgment comes like a man
dancing behind a whip on the backs of two horses
while the president-of-the-bullfight can only think
of his handkerchief, but these men are as bland

as the palm in your hand. You hold a shield
over the entire city and your belly is full
of the surprising child of poetry. The tourists
and the street-wise circle below, some rising,

some falling like your very DNA, some children,
some old, some horses, some women beguiling
with rosemary, some lost in the ancient idea of a bit.
Myself, I like your hair up. I like an engine.

A car of fire. A car of earth. A car of water.
A car of common happiness. I would like
to drive you crazy. If you think I will not build
you a house around a box of antique nails,

think again. I will never grow accustomed
to the dance where you kick your own long black skirt.
Your torso demands the sudden striking of palms.
The wooden floor hates your brutal shoes.

From your bronze posture, smile down
at our ceilings edged with curves and lit crystals
as we might look at a good white frosting.
Saint of housewives subduing stoves and dragons,

they named a city after your frying pan. Your apron
is a pristine miracle, and your hair pulled back
says you are just about to get serious.
Will you be patient with your knife?

My spine is a sword hidden in your blankets.
Your spine presides over the ministry of air,
and I love your police. Build a museum
on millstones, and curate anchors and tile.

For art has become an advertisement for art
hung from a black cathedral, a scrim like a blusher
for the third largest church in the world
whose pillars weigh so much they are sinking

into the earth, like we all do. Name
some date you want to go horizontal.
History is the building in front of us.
History is a good word in the day of strangers.

History always happens somewhere else
we hope, except when your dress flutters.
For what is a man to a cloud or a mountain,
and when will your eyelash fall on me?

While others fold steel into steel for a month, 
sharpen it, and cut the throat of death, we prefer
the triumph of the dead preferring honey
to its nectar youth. We appreciate blood. Come down.

Boats of gold, cocoa, tropical birds, and the future
of smoke will come knots of miles and months fighting
upstream toward one stone tower, but remember
blood is the price and will be the price. Before love,

let’s drift like history, in a river like schools
of freshwater fish, like the blood of six bulls
through the old stone street and into a pipe
on the Guadalquivir all the way to Sanlúcar.



My wife and I have spent nearly ten months living in Sevilla over two separate occasions. We conceived our second daughter there. A German friend we befriended there, who has lived there for ten years, told us: "In Sevilla, you must suffer. If you suffer, they will love you; if you do not suffer, they will hate you." This has something to do with the duende of which Lorca writes. I thought I understood duende before I lived in Sevilla, but you cannot understand it unless you live in and travel around Andalucía. People think duende is similar to what Americans call "soul" but it is closer to "blues". But it isn't that either. It's closer to passion, meaning suffering.  I doubt you can understand duende unless you experience both Semana Santa (Holy Week) and also the bullfight in its blood and pageantry, its art and eros, its dance and its death times six. The beloved in the poem is the beautiful statue presiding called both "La Giganta" and "La Giralda" presiding atop the tower atop the cathedral which stands at the center of the city. The tower is also called "La Giralda". The Guadlquivir flows through Seville south toward Sanlucar where it empties into the Atlantic.

John Poch teaches at Texas Tech University. His most recent book is Dolls (Orchises Press 2009).

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