A shadow, first this week, slips on the stones
and falls in place. The plaza comes to life.
A sparrow watches cats cart off the bones
of cutlets from the tasca. Sparrow’s wife
welcomes back the sun with song and cluck
and curtsies to the cats as they pad by,
pause to stretch, and wonder if their luck
extends to lunch on sparrow. Worth a try?
A lizard who’s anticipating flies
tries his tongue out, flicking at the light
reflecting from the broken glass that lies
where the waiter let it fall last night.
I let the hot cortado chase my yawn
and thanks my stars for sun. Altea dawn.
I count to ten. The steep wave keeps me down.
I think, Poseidon wins, I’m going to drown.
Green water rolls me over egg-sized stones
then the wave sucks back. I breathe and check my bones.
With Cupid as our guide, we climb the falls
and, holding hands, we play
in crowds less than existent this
fine February day.
Bright finches nest across from us.
A lordly dog befriends
our steps. He stops to wade a pool;
for him, our story ends.
For us, our history just begins
long after its first year
and we climb further up a track
less boulevard than tier
on tier on tier, to tease the sky
between the rugged rocks.
Frogs sing in ponds, and polliwogs
glide down the falls-like locks.
The track gives way to a steepening trail
that narrows to a trace.
The other hikers pause, turn back,
and leave to us this place.
We leave the path. We find the falls.
We splash and reach the source
where waters burst from naked rock.
Once introduced, they course
both ways: one river with two beds.
I test this novel sight
by tossing leaves in the highest pool.
They float, some left, some right
along two ways, the one we climb
and one that’s out of reach.
It stays for us a line on a map.
‘Our’ streams winds to the beach
as we will too, but we first must turn
and climb down from this rock
and splash to where the sun will burn
us dry. We see a flock
of February flowers raise
blue faces to the sun
and we, like them, stand still to praise
how Gaia’s overrun
these desert rocks with dampened life.
I think of Who made Her
but thinking brings me soon in strife
with seeing. I demur
to think. We’re blessed as we two walk:
The sprays collect in ponds
with basins white as bones or chalk
and ringed with date palm fronds.
A couple banks their clothes to clap
their bodies in the stream.
They embrace, and kiss, then swim a lap
to dissipate the steam.
If this be winter, leave me here
among the fragrant herbs;
and let me pay for visions dear
with nouns — and, if need be, verbs.
After the rain had washed the last tourist’s feet
and the people who lived here
were living their lunch times inside,
I climbed the hill again, this time above
the fourteenth station that lays Christ in his tomb,
and higher — past the cemetery, to the rocks.
I am sitting on this rock, a rock among many,
drinking Coca Cola from a crimson tin
and not minding the pine tree that blocks
my view of the sea — where memory has the sea —
in this world of rock, cloud, mist and me.
I watch Altea’s blue-domed church ignoring me.
Dogs bark hoarsely, hidden in the valley.
Daredevils ride cola-black mopeds
down slick mud hills that hours ago were dust.
I empty out clichés and am astounded
at the space my life enjoys. Nothing’s free.
I would join the moped riders. They’re too far.
I read The Outcast, bringing Cowper with me
to sip the cola, look down toward Altea.
He takes me with him in his ancient language
and we drown together — apart insanities.
Eyestrain, homeless sans computer screens,
deserts me; I see all I’m meant to see:
the blocking pine tree dripping spring-bloomed cones,
the clouds that coalesce from air and sea.
The yellow flowers’ petals count themselves
and yell their totals to me as I note
how masons set the top stones in their wall
with points straight up, a sharp and visual moat
to stop me stepping up where I might fall.
My cloud moves off and sails above Callosa,
across medlar nets and rows of almonds.
A sun bolt sizzles clouds and lights the dome
of the blue church in Altea. Here stays grey.
How did this root get here, get torn and burnt?
It lies with silver foil two feet away,
on a jumbled jubilation throne of stones
that could be those a church is built upon,
or those Iranian judges order thrown
at bound offenders staked waist deep in dirt
and stoned until the blood comes through the bags
in which their heads are covered, praise their lord.
I let a found cracked gutter tile
serve the rocks, and root, and wrinkled foil as a tray.
Is Robin Cooke, Tehran’s guest, treated well?
Are popes religious? Will they speak of oil?
A gargoyle’s life is pleasant for its view.
I sit on stones that I, gargoyle-smiled, distress;
all of us move so little while we look.
We stir nor sky nor wind: we fear to mess
around with aether signals bringing news.
I wonder whether the gargoyle Giles still hangs
head down, tongue out, tail up upon the door
where I first met him, living in Callosa.
I can see Callosa’s hills from here, but not its streets.
A helicopter vision is a bore
when Lucinda’s on the beach
and you want more.
Sniff the flower while you may, and learn
its Latin name.
When April comes we’ll march away
and spread its budding fame
across the press, the Internet
and into deepest space.
We’ll only show its name alas
and not its pretty face.
Altea’s outline dissipates. The sea
appears behind the city. Rain clouds move
from downtown up the valley towards me.
I pack Cowper up, I bin my cola tin,
I leave root and foil and stones for what they are.
The rain comes down refreshingly and cold,
and cheers me, from my aeons as a fish
before my recent evolution into wish.
I steal a moped, slalom down the hill.
The parts the pointy rocks don’t find, the devil surely will.
Here it’s five degrees. It’s twenty in Valencia
so, QED, there it’s four times warmer.
Pure math provides my faultless referencia
and Mother Nature’s never let my logic harm her
though she does insist we split the diferencia
to leave me five and give twenty to the charmer
who put new math in my-cold fingered reach
in my igloo while he trots off to the beach.
The weather up north’s German (as they say, ‘wetter’).
Dutch polders that aren’t frozen float in rain.
Down here in Spain it’s drier. Warmer. Better.
Though Oslo slows from powdered snow, the pain
of seeing that on TV does not fetter
my feckless glee. Orange blossoms help me gain
perspectives that permit me to endure
my winter where the sea today’s azure.
published in THE ARMCHAIR AESTHETE and in THE OLDING MAN