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(For Lois, Patricia, Ron and Evelyn)


Hibiscus spreads on the high white of walls —

summer’s last harvest,

meanwhile the condominiums grow and replicate

south of Barcelona.

Hillside by hillside

the white box balconies

speak to the next century —

rows and rows of endless trees

groomed and neat.


On the trail of desire even now

in mid-October

approaching fifty

you await some decided turn in your life and I,

so short on answers,

merely report dutifully to what is known —

a job, an ill-defined art,

to love appropriately — all in its place —

to past travels

when our bodies hardly balked

at the demands of voyaging — walking — waiting —

climbing —

that excitement for the new, that easy familiarity with the world

when all seemed plausible.


In the train car, a young blonde boy sits — an adolescent

looking out, next to mother and daughter.

Backward and forward I go into time —

he faces south toward sunlight,

I face north to the mountains carved out by buildings and towers,

displacements of mankind --- I am heading to the city

as he looks back at the bright shoreline of the sea —


vagaries of blue and color in evaporating distance.

My view of bridges and highways — smokestacks.

He talks to his sister about us,

pointing with amusement

perhaps at the coupling of two men, middle-aged men

whom he ridicules and scorns.


He cannot know of Virginia —

the journey I have made

from painful innocence to the recognition of more adult

knowledge and despair — the disappointment that awaits

his confidence.

I am bound for Barcelona

toward a city like any city

where destination is no longer a mystery —

smokestacks, power stations dotting the sea —

the boy plays at his fame — with his pen he completes his puzzle,

writing words beside the moving window of the train —

walls of cinderblock, derricks —

crossings and constructions

that the young must make

to connect to a newer age


one that will exceed even this —

valleys and fields of the old coast —

ruined aqueducts —


may he someday complete the puzzle of the heart.


from Transatlantic by Walter Holland © 2001

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