July 1969

by Elizabeth Anne Socolow
(as appeared in the Canadian poetry magazine CV2)

In the bodega in Seville, the oranges in baskets
at the front of the small corner shop, its cool marble floors
and drooping bougainvillea on the trellis at the door,
the casual abundance of fuchsia flowers all breathe together
with garlic, gossip and hope and with the yeasty peasant bread
in baskets that flank the oranges at the entrance to the store.
The pulling in of the stomach, arching of the back is,
in that atmosphere, automatic in all young women,
they conspire in half-conscious imitation of the figure
in all the plastered posters, the flamenco dancer,
her fan, half-hidden face, and black lace torsions
that emanate restraint and sex.
I cannot help it, necessita!
tell myself here, where the hourglass announces
at each blank space the brevity of youth, the body’s
mortality we cannot circumvent, no matter the cryings
and turnings, the local music thrumming in the night.
Black satin droops brief bougainvillea, white gardenias,
on the body of so little time, paper legend hung
slightly crooked on the ancient stucco above a modern,
slatted vent to the street. I duck under the arch,
pendant flowers and deep green leaves. I enter the bodega,
21 years old, a girl bent on having
a cigarette, sold then, singly, a Chesterfield, a Camel, no filters.
The proprietor not busy enough, past the hour of newspapers,
shows me the joke on the back of the Camel packet
trying to let me linger with him in the shuttered light.
Where do I want to sleep?–faire dodo– he asks
mistaking me for French, under the pyramid, the palm tree,
or the camel? His shoulders bobble in a silent laugh.
I let him turn the package over as if I were a child and didn’t know
the palace on the front. He pulls a single, perfumed stalk of shredded weed
from its nest. The Americans have just finished their current orbit
of ambition by landing on the moon. Where are the women, our tides,
our oceans and desire, if not here, in Seville, singing flamenco,
dancing with fans, our loyalty to our connection to our men, its heat,
the invisible pull of birth and blood to the moon’s silent reach?

Elizabeth Anne Socolow 1/21/05