Girl with a Bag in Barcelona
What was in the bag of the girl who had
just arrived in Barcelona? She sat down
on a bench and unfolded a piece of paper
that contained the address of her final destination.
At the moment of her taking out a cigarette
and assisting a passer-by with a light,
another man leaned over and placed his hand
on her bag, taking it away so simply,
I assumed he was a friend playing a joke,
until he broke into a bolt and the passer-by
turned cold as he ran after his accomplice,
flicking the cigarette over his shoulder
that sparked a trail before going out.
By the time I’d shot up and shouted, Thieves! –
they were halfway across Plaça de Catalunya
disappearing among the throng on La Rambla.
The girl didn’t move and went on smoking
like nothing had happened, as if she didn’t care,
taking long draws on her cigarette.
Perhaps there was nothing of value in the bag:
a magazine, toothbrush, tampons, dirty underwear.
On the other hand, perhaps her stillness was a sign
that there were items of overwhelming cost:
legal documents, her great grandmother’s watch,
a diamond ring, a signed copy of Ulysses, first edition.
‘Should I call the police?’ I asked, sitting back down.
She gave a shrug that showed the futility of my question.
She seemed to have complete self-control,
I thought she might be a pupil of the mysterious
Tibetan school who acquire material possessions
only so they can let them go: to learn the art
of dying, slipping away quietly between
thoughts when no one is looking. The thieves
by now had been swallowed into the underbelly
of Barri Gòtic; prising open their booty
like ravens scrapping over road kill.
The bag, the cigarette, the moment,
snatched like a loose thought tossed to one side.
While high above the muggy streets, behind
the velvet-curtained sky, a satellite spun out of orbit.
My mother’s kitchen was a sea of blue cupboards
and shiny surfaces, the door was always closed
or just ajar. Sometimes I’d peep in and spot her
dusting packets on shelves, or mopping the floor
smooth as an ice rink. A pot of wilting thyme
sat dying of thirst on the window sill, while outside
a bare hedge ringed our home, fortifying us
from next door. When I asked for water she’d startle
out of her cleaning waltz, spin on the spot, then
take a polished glass from the highest cupboard
and dash to the taps. I’d catch her twisted image
bending in its chrome arm, letting the gush of water
run cold before filling the glass. I’d stand at the door
wanting to break through its icy exterior – the sea
of glass – but knew if I did the world would shatter.
The old oak is our father
coming home late at night,
turning his key in the door,
leaving it off the latch.
The leaves are still falling.
I hear his slippered footsteps
shuffle on the stairs, scuff
along boards. He stifles
a cough opening my door
and releases the catch
from the window, taking
my breath as the curtains
mushroom. A pattern
of webbed branches frames
the moon. His great shadow
bows low and creaks
down the years, pressing his
whiskered cheeks to my brow,
whispering good night.
The old oak swishes and moans,
low mutterings meander
through the house. The wind
brushes my face, the sound
of leaves patting the pane.
The moon is in the wind
and the wind is in the bough
and the bough is in the door
that our father leaves open.
All poems © Copyright Adam Wyeth 2016