in the bull’s bloodshot eye,
in the empty bull ring,
in the crowds’ wave of sound
muffled in a matador’s hat.
Dust rises above the past,
over the city’s crooked pavements
where old women walk their dogs
and smoke, their steps deliberate.
Sometimes two link arms.
They are carefully coiffed,
with earrings of real gold.
A door of ironwork and glass
abuts the sidewalk. Keys are retrieved
from black leather purses. Together
they’ll enter the tiny lift,
sip chamomile tea on the divan
five flights up, their dogs
curled in their laps. Then, siesta.
Trees line the curbs, their roots
and leaves birthed in this hard city.
One learns to sleep
through the nightly caterwaul
of garbage trucks and revelers.
In the morning, when the bars close,
the city slips into daylight
as if nothing has happened—
a civil war, museums
filled with elongated madonnas
and the royal family in wigs,
their sloe-eyed children and spaniels.
In an hour or two,
heat will embrace the city
with unbearable breath, the metro
will stink of piss, the banks and offices
unlock for the commerce of the workers
who clutch their cell phones,
forgetting the library that holds
maps on parchment, notation
for the trembling strings of a guitar,
hospitals full of the dying,
families living atop one another in small apartments
filled with the smell of cheese and ham.
The children next door can be heard
clattering through rooms, and soon the afternoon
bakes in the inescapable sun
while cathedral bells toll the hour.
Shops close for sleep; it is simply too hot to do anything
but shut one’s eyes and sit until the dark closes in.
Supper seizes the tired mass of humanity,
their tapas carrying them into the dark
where ghosts rise over churches
and statues of famous men. Above the plazas,
babies are scrubbed and tucked into their beds
with perhaps a story of princes and charms
in a whole world of silvery sweetness,
except for the hungry, the beaten, and
the ancient bellowing of bulls.
Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such diverse journals as Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, nebulab, Istanbul Literary Review, Gradiva, and Agenda. Her most recent book of poems is EDGES.