Spent Gypsy Magic
A grandmother, roasting a chicken over the fire,
long skirts close to the flames, looked at me with hunger.
She wanted more than food or clothes.
“I’ll read your palm,” she told me in country
French I could hardly understand.
She smelled of witchcraft, or was it the charred
wood, the hiss of a bird warming his breast
above her on a gnarled branch?
Before I held out my hand she showed me her scarred legs —
more than once the fire had caught her ragged skirts
but her eyes burned hotter than her scorched skin —
“Sister,” she called me. “Sister Spirit.” Her black eyes
beckoned me to a dim recess, a clearing thick with vague stirrings.
She reached for my hand, stroked the fingers lovingly:
“The time will come,” she crooned, ‘when you will have
all the wealth you need.” The old timepiece of her face shone
like a burnished clock on a bell-tower in some ancient town.
The hunger in her veins ran up my arm
into my chest. I urged her: “What about the rest?
Where for centuries have I been”?
“Tell more,” warbled the redbreast,
as I hung in a web of gypsy myth, strung
among shadows and nymphs. “You are my sister,”
she murmured, as I handed her some francs.
“I will tell you more if you give me more money.”
The shine of her face, her redemptive grin,
faded to the mercenary glint of gold patched teeth —
“I have no more francs,” I said. Her eyes burned
as she looked in scorn at my well-ironed blouse,
then returned to her chicken.
A bird shrieked through sun-parched leaves;
I stumbled back to the car through
cigarette butts and empty cans of beer.
(Near Limoges, France)
published by The Ephemera Literary Journal
The boy hangs about tourists
on uneven steps
against a terracotta wall;
his eyes under baby bear hair
squint in the sun.
He is curious about my whiter skin,
my strange world,
my way of speaking.
But I’m not his main attraction.
For he clutches a ball
in his brown hand,
then rolls it on the grey-slab street,
up then down, enchanted
with its bumping, stopping,
sticking between the sidewalk
in an infinity of ways a ball can roll —
I notice the ball is peeling,
and as it lurches over the stones
it leaves behind a piece of potato.
That potato’s fun, I say in Spanish
with a smile.
The boy stares, puzzled.
“It’s not a potato; it’s my ball,”
and continues his rolling.
(San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
from “Remember Not to Forget”
You felt the strain of being
too fine-strung for this earth’s orchestra
so my tears run when against
taut strings a cellist finds
your deepest chord, when crafted
wood emits a song of trees
from the earth’s, from your core,
when our love like shining leaves
falls to a deep stream
through fading seasons —
when your smile, your heart,
pass through me, then die
in music, the mother of tears —
“Excuse me,” you said that night,
then disappeared from sight,
and excuse me, I say, I must cry
for stresses you didn’t show,
in the death you shielded from my eyes.
And thank you, I say, for our love,
bound tight in sweet sorrow
in the deep strain of this cello.
from “Remember Not to Forget”