While learning to speak real Spanish fluently probably requires being in a Spanish speaking country, Ben Curtis and Marina Diez provide online teaching services that make the process not only easier but also very enjoyable. They live in Madrid, which is her hometown (he is from Oxford), and they provide a host of online course materials including free podcasts and videocasts. Their choice of subjects and their engaging presentation make following them much more fun than the average reality television show, than any reality television show! You can find their videos on YouTube and via iTunes, which is also a handy way to get their podcasts. Their websites are good sources, not only for Spanish-language studies, but also for information about traveling to or living in Spain: http://www.notesfromspain.com and
Pues nada is a phrase that you often hear in Spain. Ben defines it as a good manner of making a pause in conversation. A literal translation could be ‘well, nothing’ or ‘then, nothing’ – with or without the commas – which may have something to do with the title of this new poem I am working on:
The survival knife, like hula hoops, has faded
from the public consciousness, Rambo entombed
with other myths attractive till The Bomb.
Then nothing. I can’t translate this short phrase.
It stays foreign to me like so many things,
their foreignness increasing as we age:
all things, and me. The knife lies on the floor.
It is useless here where bombs define the street
but, unlike many neighbors, it survived.
I read out phrases that street artists painted
onto the walls that last week were inside –
until The Bomb exposed them – bright green smears,
spray-painted text: Pues, Nada. Says it all.
The Cat of Whimsy – Why not call him that?
No one will read these words I write inside
what’s left of this apartment, and he purrs
when I call him that, or anything at all –
The Cat of Whimsy leans against my leg
then jumps across the big survival knife.
It’s not a game I’ll play, remembering lords,
or were they knaves, who fell upon their swords.
It has gotten light outside, so it’s light here.
One wall leaves little room for in the dark
when the sun starts shining. I avoid the cat
by looking at this paper. He returns.
He is thinking, just like I am, where we’ll eat.
Our appetites, so absent for the hour
or maybe days that followed the explosion,
return and bite us and we go downstairs.
‘Concrete poetry, what Israelis made
destroying Palestine’s American school…’
These lines offend me, word games making light
of what is so damned heavy that my soul
gives up existing. What is left goes down
what was the street last week, the garish paint
affirming that some younger people care
enough to try to use what they have left
to express their outrage. All they have is paint.
The Other Side, both Other Sides, have Bombs –
for here, for there in Gaza, Mexico
and everywhere that we sell arms. Who’s ‘we’?
I count. With cat and knife we’re only three.
‘I would not mind a steak,’ I tell the cat.
‘You can rhyme until the cows come home,’ he says.
‘This is not rhyme!’ I shout. We see no cows.
‘My point exactly,’ says the Cat of Whimsy.
He adds, ‘Pues, nada.’ We are lightening up,
our heads light from the hunger. Was it days?
The cat essays a joke on body parts:
‘My companion’s body parts mosaic seas.’
It’s atrocious, but we’re both atrocioused out.
A sweet old lady – ‘Sweet, she’s got a gun! –
doesn’t shoot us. Shakes her head. Gun-waves us on.
‘With gifts like these: no bullets fired, the sun,’
the cat tells me – I am shaking – ‘you’ll be fine.’