(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
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 —
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
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