For Caroline Reeves
The airport signs are in the four languages
of Spain – Basque, Castilian, Catalan,
Galician – three of which Franco outlawed.
(Our Eroski bag will tell us how to
recycle it in all four). El Caudillo,
slightly chinless, rendered the country
tongue-tied for a generation and more.
We arrive at the same time as the swifts –
which buzz our apartment’s balcony
at sunset and loop across the clay-tiled
roof tops and past the Moorish chimneys
– and the last of the vendavales
blowing round the Gothic cathedral
and the archway to the walled Arab harbour.
Next day, we marvel at the fish stalls
in the market, a Mediterranean
cornucopia – now including salmon!
We stroll along the corniche
by the extensive marina, note
the fishing port reduced to two quays
and the multiple moorings of Russian
oligarchs’ and Arabian despots’
gargantuan yachts and power boats.
We stop in a glass-walled bar for a latte.
Billie Holiday sings, ‘Rocks in my heart.’
Next morning, we stroll in the old town.
We pass a graffito, ‘Passada
a l’rumor! Partit de la Llibertat! ‘–
‘Pass on the rumour! Freedom exists!’
As we enter Plaça de Sant Francesc,
a man is being arrested. Squad cars
flash their blue lights. Nuns watch from the windows
of the convent school by the basilica.
We can hear the excited voices of girls.
That evening, we eat at the Portic
in the Plaça – grilled turbot, aioli
and a small carafe of the house red.
As we return to the apartment
through the narrow, tenemented streets,
swifts chafe the warm air. And it is nothing,
nothing and everything…