Friday, February 21, 2020

Una Fantasía de Barcelona

Una Fantasía de Barcelona
"---Soledad of my sorrows, the horse that runs away
finds the sea at last and is swallowed by the waves.
---Don't remind me of the sea, for the black pain springs
from the land of the olives/under the rustling leaves."
 ~Ballad of the Black Pain, Federico Garcia Lorca

Barcelona opens herself at dawn
to the wind off the ocean 
so she may bathe in seabirds
as they rise to her through

apricot clouds, as they sway
past umbels of oleander 
from Morocco,
black-red in pale tubs.

In the crimson sun of noon, she rides
a burning bull to the market
peonies flaring his nostrils,
with eyes of yellow wheat; his horns

of sand gore the stone streets
to a delirium of olive trees. Silver bells 
shimmer cries, murdering dusty nothing 
in the corners of the dark church.

Barcelona in the tourmaline night
remembers her gulls, her gannets and
shearwaters, singing sailor's ballads
to the white stucco walls that

crack with the loss of the sun,
songs of the runaway horse
racing blind to the sea cliff, 
where in freedom he drowns,

lyrics of power and terror, of
flying moons and sinking ships,
and the sweet rustle of the one
who settles in the nest.

Barcelona at dawn
opens herself to me on
her bed of shells, solid as sea foam,
womb-warm and fragrant with

her thousand desires; but
my heart is a white petrel flying
far, far over the razor waves, who
never means to land.

February 2020
with thanks to Shay Simmons for the borrowing of her birds

 posted for
earthweal Open Link

Note: This is about a fantasy of Barcelona, as the title suggests (except that oleander does come from Morocco.) I have never been to Barcelona except in this poem. 

For all the earthwealers, in the real world Barcelona, like the rest of the planet's coastal cities, is exposed to the dangers of climate change, and recently underwent severe flooding from Storm Gloria
".. along the east coast of mainland Spain. The worst coastal flooding was reported around the Ebro river delta south of Barcelona, where the storm surge swept up to 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) inland through low-lying rice paddies. In Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar, sea foam whipped up by high winds moved inland from the beach, blocking streets. At the Port of Barcelona, waves crashed as high as 7 metres (23 ft) over defenses, flooding coastal properties..."~wikipedia  
Video clips of the foam blocking streets are quite striking.

Images: Green Sky, © Jose Manuel Capuletti, circa 1950-55? Fair Use 
A gull overflies the Mediterranean sea during strong winds in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020...(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)


  1. Sometimes a poet is prone to write only from the mind and the effect, while clever or complex, is often also a bit sterile or doesn't ring quite true. OTOH, a poet can write strictly from the heart, and that is a sticky, soppy mess. It's honest, but that can't save it. But when a poet writes not only from the sinews and guts, but from the intellect and spirit and the hope and pain of being alive in the world, why then, you have something approaching this that you have created here. I know you're not a baseball fan as I am, but when a hitter hits the ball exactly right, they say it isn't felt at all; that's how this poem reads, so easy and amazing and on an arc that one only sees once in a blue moon. or, to put it another way, fuckinay, Bo Peep, you made me cry with this. I felt it in my solar plexus, but not as a blow--rather as a movement of sea air.

    1. Thank you, Shay. You know how much this praise from you means to me.

  2. Your imagery is so beautiful, Joy, Barcelona at dawn, bathing in seabirds rising through apricot clouds. OMG. The bull with peonies in his nostrils and eyes of yellow what is amazing. My heart hurts for the runaway horse running blindly to his death. I hope those moments of freedom were joyous for him. Your closing stanza breaks my heart. Just gorgeous writing. Sigh.

    1. Yes, that's the question Lorca asks I think--what exactly were those moments of freedom, were they worth what followed? Was it inevitable? He is writing about a gypsy in that quoted poem, who has lost her homeland. Anyway, thank you as always for reading and for supporting all of us.

  3. I have been to Barcelona, many moons ago, and there is something fantasy-like in that antiquated city, with every construct built atop the ruins of one that came before back through the history of man/woman.
    I had the sense, as I read your poem, of walking through the halls of a deserted art gallery, each picture catching my eye, until I had built up an entire scene in my mind.
    I especially love all the references to the birds flying through, most especially the final petrel.
    Absorbing and transforming!

    1. Thanks, Kerry. I envy you your trip--I got my vision of the city from a cinematic shot in a Spanish program I have been watching, set in the 1300's, and for me too, it definitely has that feeling you describe, of walking over the relics of time. Thanks again for your kind comments, which are always appreciated.

  4. I read most of the great Spanish-language poets like Lorca in a long great sweep over a few years (mostly walking to and from work, briefcase in one hand, book in the other), and there was a singular passion for landscape which isn't approached by poets of any other language. Like a remnant of Gaelic, still deeply seeped in some Bronze Age dialect, passion and purity. It's here in the careful, sweeping vistas of verse, summoning this woman Barselona from her well by the sea, bathing "in sea birds" and riding "a burning bull / to the market, / peonies flaring his nostrils." The notes have a peculiar resonance and seem drawn from new or more distant places for you. It feels Spanish: There is the sailor and the horse, the wave and drowning ships. All are resonant of a long bittersweet history between the land and the sea which is changing now, altering course, sending that woman away. Or under: the last stanza leaves us wondering if Barcelona can't be found any more, or whether her sustenance is no longer sufficient, and the petrel flies on, inconsolable. The note begs a second, more astringent reading, asking, what is saved and what is forever lost. Best stuff, Hedge, polished to a pagan shine. Thanks for bringing it to earthweal. --Brendan

    1. Thanks B. I find in Spanish poetry a connection between landscape and spirit, even the heart and one's whole identity, identified with the physical world inhabited. I am very gratified it felt Spanish to you. I have been watching a lot of Spanish-made series, in the original language with subtitles, and its impossible not to come away with a great entanglement with and attraction to that most complex and riven country. 500 years of Moorish rule, centuries of absolute feudalism and dictatorship, only achieving a democracy in 1978--it's fascinating. I'm also glad you could see the connection to the runaway horse, our own fates, and the land and sea forever in contrast. Thanks for reading, and for your work at earthweal.

  5. Such glorious imagery. You had me holding my breath through this one - the real and the fantasy combining with such richness.

    1. Thank you, sarah, and I am very impressed by your own poetry.

  6. So vivid with words of color and mood...If Barcelona is this fantasy, I hope one day to see it. Beautiful work

  7. I have never been to Barcelona either, and will not now – though my late husband Andrew fell in love with Spain as a young man and always wanted to take me there. Your beautiful fantasy of it sounds like the place which so captured his imagination.

    1. Yes, I'm glad you could feel a resonance with your husband's love of the country. I will never get to go there either, but there is always fantasy, yes? Thank you, Rosemary.

  8. I always wanted to go to Spain and Barcelona. Now, well...yeah.
    Your two wrap-up stanzas are especially beautiful. We can visit places via a poem. You've shown us how.

  9. Oh, and that burning bull. Perfect!!!

    1. I think it would be a fantastic place to see, Yvonne, and I hope someday you will. Thanks for your kind comment(s).

  10. Hi there Joy, I was in Barcelona about a year ago, but that's irrelevant. Your poem, with it's brilliance and imagery takes me to a Barcelona of the mind. I could quote lines but I would end up quoting the whole poem. Your work is of such a high standard...something to aspire to....JIM

  11. Just this morning I was saying I wished to go to Barcelona, before seeing this pen.

    So many years ago, I had thought (which is to say, not really planned) to go to Barcelona as we traipsed from Morocco across the straights of Gibraltar, thence through Madrid, then to France... but ended up in Basel instead...

    In Volubilis, where the Roman stones still stood (against a backdrop of oxen yoked to plows) - pillars versus olive trunks - the gulls landed.

    Which is to say, I can only agree with Shay, this pen is right through the sweet spot: it conjures long-forgotten vistas and scents and the memory of Spanish mornings, and makes me glad to have read it, regardless of the tides which rise before us.

    1. Well, that's the ultimate compliment, isn't it, that to read it gladdens one. Why we do it,I think, along with the fact that it also gladdens the writer or at least brings relief from the commonplace grind of days.I envy you your journey,M.I have just rediscovered Spain in her films, tv,and poetry, and it's a very intense sort of place, or feels so to me. I was surprised by how little ocean separates her from North Africa, and by her desert yellow soil, and arid regions around Malaga. Barcelona and Seville however seem a different flavor, rich in a lean and hungry sort of way.Thanks so much for this comment. It means a lot to me.I hope things are well with you.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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