UNITED STATES—Since being on the airplane to Madrid, I’d reencountered poetry. I grabbed a few scraps from the shelf above my desk because we were going to read at a literary bar on Tuesday night. Already on the airplane, I took a few poems and did something to them I had not done in a long time, if at all, bring the process forward one additional draft or two.
Wherein the poetry is born on the page. By Saturday, Carmen had given me a number of gifts. Also among Carmen’s gifts were a notebook, which she gave me and said it was to write beautiful things. She herself has a poetic tendency, the night before she looked at the view from the balcony and transmitted it into a portrait of the sky, the stars, the dying day.
“She writes poems, but it is always the same poem,” he is of course very rational, having been educated in France.
That Saturday, before our walk to the Moorish tower I sat at the kitchen table distractedly copying out one of the verses from the plane that seemed to be growing away in the right direction. And in this kitchen version, after I finished a breakfast of toast and very strong coffee served in the kind of smallish mug that I like. In this way Spain is very much liking; they abound in the smaller cups that seem absent in America. One has to search long and patiently to find 8-ounce mugs. Even the chains like Burger King and McDonalds, which have come on strong, serve modestly sized beverages.
Carmen who talks prolifically and with emphasis kept apologizing. I assured her that quiet is no requite for poetry. For fiction, I may be at a quandary and need to hear the subtle thoughts and impulses. But taking a poem one draft farther in my brand-new note was to conduct a lively conversation meanwhile, while conjurging new flashes of poetry was the ideal method.
Somehow love came up. Fernando remembered in France, he broke up with a beautiful girl because he told her that he did not plan to marry her. She records and destroyed his record and tape collection. She cut up his Bob Dylan records and later ripped off his stuff including a brand-new slow cooker, when a friend gave her the key to their apartment.
“Amour vache the French call it, puta amour,” Francisco says. “It has happened to be a few times in my life.”
He doesn’t believe in finding the love of one’s life, stressing, “It is the product of one’s brain and chemicals.”
Carmen has had some rough experiences in that area, but still believes in love. Her philosophy is “You cannot become sad because of what other people,” and “you must live life.”
The good strong coffee fueled much conversation. Meanwhile Carmen brought out a book over a hundred years old, illustrated by amazingly detailed engravings, that captured volume, light and a shadow. Meanwhile, Fernando lovingly prepared the midday meal, doing something of the rice and removing the scaly fins from the shrimp, combined with rice and saffron which turns out to be purple.
Carmen pulled out a book of poems by Antonio Machado, admired for his elegant plainness. It made fine bedside reading. The choice of book for an author going on a trip is often a matter for care and introspection. For the trip to Spain the choice was obvious: no book. The trip would offer its own books.
By the little cellphone, I contacted my friend and our host in Las Rozas. We would meet on Sunday. Carmen immediately thought the bus trip to Madrid which would include the chocolate and churros, but it was not to be. It ascertained the different, contrasting characters of Fernando and Carmen. He would drop us at the bus stop, and once the bus came, he would go back to his workshop and the the ongoing retiling of the Jacuzzi.
To be continued…