Monday, February 6, 2012

Lila Zeiger

Barcelona in the Seventies

For days Barcelona in a daze Barcelona, 4 days Barcelona. 
No more Franco, no more babies, no more money Barcelona.
Cheap hotel room, ran to Ramblas, saw the monkeys Barcelona.
Looked at maps, ate the tapas, danced Sardana Barcelona.
Saw Columbus in the harbor,  to Monjuich  from Barcelona.
Catalan admiration, bought Estelles for translation Barcelona
Bought berets, lost our way, heat exhaustion Barcelona.
Buses, trolleys, miles of walking, Gaudi gawking Barcelona.            
All alone in Parque Guelle, clambered, fell under his spell Barcelona. 


Barcelona Beggars (1978)

Like everything else in that city, they have style.  None of your  mawkishness.  No pulling at sleeves, no tugging at Ingles.  They do not say a word.  The women in  black, supine on the sidewalk, all look like one woman.   Often a beautiful girl child lies in their laps, held so tightly that she does not dare open her eyes, even when the sound of our English makes her lids flicker.

Propped to complete the tableaux are signs boldly lettered, simple enough for even the tourist.    My Husband Has Deserted Me, I Owe 6 Months Rent.    My Baby is in the Hospital with Cancer, I Can Not Pay.   The Orphan Girl holds a sign which describes the 9 brothers she must support.  The tall man with 3 Weeks to Live stands sideways, hand on his furrowed brow, framed in the arch of an old doorway like a bas relief.  And we cannot forget the eyes of the young boy, only those eyes moving above the thick white cast which covers his legs and his torso up to his chin.  He does not need a sign.

We are generous with pesetas.  But surely. we hope, this must be some carefully orchestrated swindle--a Beggars' Opera.  The signs, for example, so perfect we could swear they were written by one hand.  We try to imagine the Poet Prince of the Beggars, composing those little libretti, designing the ragged costumes.  Yes,  choosing even that cast.

All that night, the sidewalk bodies of the day are in our eyes.  Yes, they must be actors.  When it is too dark for the signs to be seen, they will drive to their splendid villa in Tibidabo.  The women will dress for dinner, their gold chains sparkling.  They will drink fine sherry, eat delicate tapas of crayfish.   The man from the doorway with 3 weeks to live will barely alter his stance as he dances a brilliant flamenco.  The little girls will giggle in white lace dresses, cradling their blonde dolls in the garden.  But the boy in the white cast (which comes off with ingenious hinges)  will be honking his bicycle horn so loudly that the doll babies cannot sleep.

From the large hearth below,  the odors of river trout and suckling pig are already  mingling with the scent of jasmine which wafts to the pink satin bedrooms.  The brilliant brass beds are waiting in flurries of pillows.  Tonight, the Barcelona beggars will lie once more--in comfort.  For tomorrow they must wake with the morning glories and set out to play their parts on the stage of the sympathetic city.  They will try once more to get what they want, but do not truly need.


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