Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"The Meeting in Madrid" by Ron Slate

Listen, the band still plays in the plaza
but my Spanish friends are weary.
They turn from each other sluggishly,
simply tired, but it feels like a misfortune.

Among all people they suffer the most
from prosperity, assuming the habits
of updated Danes, globalized Poles.
Alejandro departs early from his house
in the new suburb, too far to return
for a nap at siesta time, siete,
the seventh hour after dawn.

It was my job to incite the nations
to productivity, inducing Greeks to adopt
the advances of Swedes. One could deceive
a whole world by staying alert.

Alejandro's eyelids quivered while the Germans
presented their plan for expansion.
The Spaniards nap in buses,
barber chairs, dressing rooms, toilet stalls.
The most exhausted people of Europe,
deprived of their devoted shadow, their dream.
Caffeinated but dull, fatigued by enthusiasm.

Waking at dawn in New York in 1930,
Lorca lamented the pillars of slime.
He gazed at the palisades and saw,
staggering in the suburbs, insomniacs.

In Madrid I heard the dual tongues
of the present—the first, quelling the tension
felt in the past and feared for the future—
the other, tragic and personal, continuous
with the past, ambiguous, conflicted.
It all made me miss the comfort of my wife.

The hotel manager entered our meeting room
without knocking: a threat,
please take your coats,
there's a breeze this evening,
the police have arrived,
please use the stairway, not the lift.

We waited on the plaza
while the band wondered what to play
at a time like this—something
to console or wake the world,
or simply to please themselves.

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