Before I die...
A poem for Rosa.
O Rosa, my Rosa
During that hot summer,
On the days when they were out,
I had nothing to eat.
I had to drop-in at two relative’s a-day.
There were times when they ate all,
Nothing left when I arrived.
Still I stood up straight from their tables
As if I was visiting to hear the news: My cousins were the best in their class.
It didn’t matter that it was mid-August,
And that the subject had been mentioned
I slept in one bed with my father In an alcove he sublet at his parent’s two-room flat. We possessed two gramophone records, One was Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, The other, Falla’s, The Dance at the End of the Day, From El Amor Brujo, and a curved brush for hats.
My six months banishment
For a February fight had expired;
I wore thick, white, wool trousers
And ski boots since last winter.
For the dance.
It was dark enough; still I knew
I have never set eyes on you before.
You were so pretty in your knee-length,
White, flowery dress,
O Rosa, you were the prettiest,
And when other couples brushed by
I held you closer
And wanted to kiss the roots
Of your sweet-smelling neck,
You were not afraid to hold my hand firmly,
O Rosa, the sweat had begun to roll down on my back.
O Rosa, you could not hide your surprise,
I was the only one with a coat.
The evening was so hot,. .
But my father’s coat on my arm
Was the only decent garb we owned,
We talked about the bands,
I recomposed my only intimate sentence,
With my heart in my throat, asked
Can I meet with you again?
And you had not quickened your steps
Toward the door like all the others
Had done in the past.
Your girlfriend shared her soda with you.
Then, the three of us walked to the building where you lived.
And you asked - Can you come down here on
Wednesday, evening at seven?
I changed my hold on my father’s coat
And said - Yes, thank you, I will be here.
We said good night, you waved,
Then, disappeared in the doorway.
Monday, after I eat the leftovers,
I borrowed some money, saying I had
To buy a hammer made in Germany.
They knew I lied, but by giving, let me sink a little lower,
It was another way to have their children seem
As a better raised, upright human beings.
Wednesday, you appeared as soon as I got there,
We walked around the block,
Only then, I saw the little pink flowers of your dress,
Your blonde hair was combed back,
Kept tight by two combs behind your ears,
O Rosa, you were so pretty.
Of course, I wanted to meet your mama.
I drank mouthfuls, floundered in the waves of your walk.
On the first floor you turned left,
Pushed open the right side of a double door,
Took hold of my hand and led me into the maze
Of beds, boxes and worn suitcases.
Inside a large warehouse of a one-time garment factory,
We drifted toward the soup-smelling centre, searched, Surrounded by the subdued clamour of the crowd.
We walked by the sheets of blankets,
Clouds of linen tacked onto the ceiling
Separating the families,
A bed from the bed of others.
Passageways became improvised avenues,
Your mother was busy somewhere
In the bowels of the common-kitchen,
You were looking for her while holding my hand,
Then offered me the only chair.
You sat on the bed and asked,
Would you like a bowl of soup?
Yes, of course I would, I said.
On the top of a large suitcase covered with an old skirt
You arranged two plates and spoons,
Then nodding toward the back said,
There are the gas stoves, we have six of them.
You would boil the water.
Your Mama returned while you were away,
I introduced myself.
You came back with the pot.
Your mama said she was sorry.
She, due to the circumstances
Was not able to offer more and
Gave me a thin, apologetic smile.
She sat upright on the bed,
You on an old crate.
When I said good night at the door,
In front of others
You let me kiss your face.
I said - See you Saturday at six.
O Rosa, you looked into my eyes, smiled,
Then said, yes, that would be very nice.
O Rosa, how could you live
in greater poverty than mine?
O Rosa you were so lovely,
Deserved better than I,
Not me, not me,
You needed one with more,
How could we be so very poor and smile?
O Rosa, we would have perished, burn up
In our sweat-sweet scented fire.
O Rosa, I did not go to our date,
I beg you, please, forgive me,
Wherever you are.
When she said, "we have six of them", I started to sob inside and, am still searching for her.
Laid-out in pink shirt and green vest,
In the warmth of her underworld
I wave to the shades slowly passing by,
Whispering that she does not exist, and if she does,
She wears nuclear armour on Monday,
An Ebola extract on her lips on Tuesdays,
Dances naked in her garden on Wednesdays,
Buries the city in apple bloom on Thursdays,
Sucks the promises from the bones of her bankrupt loves on Fridays,
Jewel of the planet, oil for my lamp on Saturdays, And on Sundays, in the early afternoons
While she leans on my abandoned piano,
Puts her little finger in her nose and nibbles on
The cold cuts saved from my wake for her wedding
Swaying to the melancholy beat of - "You don't know what love is."
Leaves fall, seem reluctant to let go of their tree,
When do, flip into a desperate tumble,
As if to avoid the descent, attempt to stay airborne,
But not all of them, before parting,
Helen had her hair done,
Rose bought a pair of expensive shoes,
Bill changed his will,
JP ordered a duplicate key to the house
He will never enter again.