La Buena Muerte

A selection of new poems from Spain

The Haunted Hotel
Hostal El Cónsul, Los Camachos

A shepherd in his youth, Alfonso went
abroad, became a diplomat, made cash
working in Africa, the Ivory Coast.
Returning to his native town he built
a hotel tucked away upon a hill.
A curved room’s at one end. It’s painted red.
A tennis court with cypresses outside.

Eccentric, but a pleasant man, they said.
He sometimes wore strange robes from Africa,
something that’s rare in a small mining town.
His nickname was El Cónsul in those parts.

On several nights he heard a person knock,
went to the door but no one was outside.
A few days later, his waiter went to work,
found everything shut up and called the police.
They broke in through a window, found his boss,
horribly murdered, lying near the bar,
sixty-three stab wounds, none through vital parts.
He’d slowly bled to death in agony.
There’d been a struggle, hair was in his hand.
His wallet was found outside with cash intact
two days after, some distance from the place.
The crime is still unsolved until this day.
The weapon and murderer were never found.
When ruins aren’t squatted they say it is a sign
that something very bad once happened there.
Not unsurprisingly it’s left to rot.
And psychics have held seances inside.
Vandals have daubed graffiti in red paint.
Messages claim that Death is in there now
tell visitors to leave while they still can.
I’d seen these pictures. Went to visit there.
Crawled through a gap in the wire fence around.
Entered the building. Held aloft a torch.
There’s not much light. Most windows are bricked up.
Felt nothing much and heard no weird sounds
such as the mediums picked up from these walls.
Graffiti ask Alfonso where he is.
Another in Latin: I stabbed you. Fair game.
Everything else is Spanish on these walls.
A host of lovers’ names who ventured here.
A pillar with pentacles and 666.
I only feel a little ill at ease
seeing a stairs on a diagonal.
All misalignments really bother me.

Back home I look at all my photographs,
including one shot in the dark. My flash
reveals part of my name upon a wall.
Pitt Moriras. Pitt you will die.
Yes, I will die as do we all at last.
I just intend to put it off a while.

La Buena Muerte

La Buena Muerte, the good death, the name
given to a finca on the land that’s close
to La Aparecida, the appearance.
(An eighteenth century traveller was saved
by carrying a portrait of the Virgin there.
A thief just took his cash and not his life:
He built a hermitage upon the spot.)
Rumours of many brutal tortures there
in Inquisition dungeons underground.
Out of the city, screams could not be heard.
What’s left to see? It’s one of many farms.
Dutch barns, machines, an ancient water wheel
propelled  by wind brings water from a well.
Most of the fincas here look much the same.
How many places in this land conceal
a dark, forgotten history beneath?
The countryside is red in tooth and claw.

These days La Aparecida is best-known
for embutidos, finest sausages,
artisan-crafted, packed in real skin,
the blood of pigs, etcetera, within.

Monasterio de San Ginés

Its ruined beauty by the motorway
tells of another more religious age.
The monastery is isolated now.
Its hermitages grace the other side
cut off from it by endless streams of cars.
Its romería takes a different route.

A group is fighting hard to save it now.
A line of ruined workers’ cottages
lie alongside. It was a finca once.
One of this group was born and grew up there
remembers it and paints it as it was.

The ruined shell spawns urban legends now:
underground passages down to the sea,
strange balls of light and demon cries at night.
YouTube carries many little films of it
where psy-investigators scare themselves.
A German at a boot sale talked of it . . .
A group of female skeletons were found.
“What were they doing with those women?” he said.

Each year more vandalism takes its toll.
The current owners, a construction firm,
once meant to build houses galore beside.
Now cash is short, all projects are on hold.
Woman with a goitre

With Zyggy, an old friend, I visited
areas of prostitution in Tel Aviv.
He fancied writing a short story called
“The last bar on Hayarkon Street”.

We ate falafel in the early hours
with Chayah, the owner of that bar.
Sat at a café on a street close by,
a café used by ladies of the night,
gaunt women half-destroyed by drugs and life.
Dealers relaxed there too. Another world.
Their clients cruised by shopping for a fix.
Religious ones came later in the night
(less people to observe their weaknesses).
Police drove by simply keeping an eye on things.

Chayah pointed out a lady in the bar:
old, gentle, timid, with a pock-marked face,
a goitre on her neck. She helped in there.
She and her sister had been subjects for
experiments by Dr Mengele.
She didn’t need the cash but couldn’t sleep
fifty years after those “experiments”.
She felt at home, a certain camaraderie,
with these outsiders on the edge of things.

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"