Finisterre Sonnets

Erguete, miña amiga,

que xa cantan os galos do dia!

Federico Garcia Lorca

I. Sunrise, Shoe Beach

Men are casting out or mending together

the green nets that are their livelihood:

instead of glass, shell, and stone

the sand is littered with a thousand shoes

as if the ocean was emptying itself

of them forever. Still in the dark,

boys on the wharf play with German lugers

and machine guns, ratt-tatting

at the tourists who hurry by for a bus.

Skeins of hake, tropical daintyfish,

already the catch will suffice till nightfall.

Surrounded by broken uppers and soles,

I sit on the belly of a skiff

and breathe in the first of morning.

II. Cruz de Baixar

The bay is swamped with octopus, divers

with sickles and bags of shells.

A pilgrim takes a picture of the wooden cross where

an ocean meets the rising shore.

Carved into one side, the heavenly sister

is weaning a child, and on the other

he's full grown with a beard,

walking over water and wearing

the bloody crown of thorns.

I can't yet see to beyond his life

where a woman is smiling, and others

with baskets on their heads walk against

a wind that sings of the next wanderer

to pass and leave a better word.

III. Tidal Sky

In the distance, Ría Corcubión

where a galleon was dug up only yesterday

and the fish oil waft from the marketplace at Cee,

which sprawls in pink trotters

and baby blue-wattle turkey-hens

who look like Satan's messengers.

You can't hear what's going on

in the cetarea, the giant

" Boy " crabs maniacally inching

from one corner of bunker

to the other. But sky is what matters here,

from clouds to color to the imagination

beyond; the panopticon of sky is what

funnels the fire down into us!

IV. Diva's Song

A mealy calico walks the cat path

in broad daylight, pelting out an aria

to Iocaste, the primal screamer,

weaving like a confused bat out of hell,

an anxious sister of some upper atmosphere.

She picks her way carefully

through mussel shells, slips down

to the valley of the crabs.

Sooner than I expected, and all

at once, a gang of the town tomboys

skits along clean-whiskered,

stinking of halibut, and happily

disappears over the embankment

after her, into the long, green weeds.

V. The Iceland Gull

Men in French berets line the cutting docks,

leaning upon their sacks and lobster pots.

But I was watching the larus glaucoídes

who chose not to fly or pick through litter

and fish bones, standing alone along

a promontory of the alabaster reef.

With her great blue-backed wings extended,

she cracks her gullet, lets out a creech

which turns all heads earthwards, all

music of closure back towards heaven.

What is it she's saying or singing

or trying to swallow, as she opens

her throat for the longest guffaw-cry

of utterance that ever reached my ears?

VI. Playa Langosteira

Women crouch in rust rubber boots along the sand bars

in twos and threes, the pull of the moon

working their fingers into the holes

the tiny razors left behind.

They knead at the flesh of the clams as if

it was their own, a wakening

energy of sex. I could see of some

their bony knees, the one part of the body

that makes me weep the bones

it spurred a million years ago.

Even the younger boys with delicate lips,

leaning on clam rakes with querulous eyes,

were nothing next to the navajeras,

with their skillfully shifting thighs.

VII. Cementerio

Loud-speakered voices at Sunday morning mass:

a crimson-dressed crone in a pillbox

enters the yard, strewn with chamomile.

A photo of her, when she--Maria Inocencio--looked like still

the primavera rose. We see her silver-toothed smile,

tree-ring wrinkles from years of planting caldo gallego

over the grave of her husband, lost at sea,

lost to the impossible swordfish.

And next to him, a Benedictine monk,

some Falangist bakers, drunken cabinetmakers.

Each in his turn has settled into the stone

of this tenement of the not-to-be-forgotten.

Each in his turn breathes a sigh of relief when

a new one steps up to the altar of San Guillermo's Hill.

VIII. To a River Dolphin

Murmuring surge; whelk-horn borne of waves curl

in long tongues along bayous of this Celtic earth,

to the bleached beach where you rot in the winter sun,

shadows your face casts among tide pools are

the tropical shadows I grew through far, far back

and across this wine-black sea. Drunk as we are,

and lovers half into a half-made circle of glistening kisses

on pale white breasts, you draw us here to one dry lick

of sand to lie on, far from bottomless pits of squid.

Your bleached skull is a warning that too much love

might turn this wine back to water of the River Muros.

Or maybe naught but the trick quiz memento mori

we try to discover in each other's smiles

as the sun bleeds red and sinks beneath the sea.

IX. Stone Christ Head Eaten by Snails

He shrugs and tries to shoulder them off.

But they cling like barnacles,

crouched into pockets of his wind-worn chin.

What is left of him

are the upper arms and head, eroded

into the wall which is laced with broken glass.

All that we have forsaken

is that which we might have forgiven

or forgotten, he seems to say.

As for the snails, carapaced

and striped with striations of geologic time,

they too have their destination.

Another century and they will have reached

his eyes, the place where they can sleep.

X. Playa O Mar de Fora

Was it here by the Apostles' chair, above the cliffs

at the extreme verge of a shelf-worn continent, that I first saw

the blue-winged crow, where John and James sat

and watched a ball of Roman sun slip into ocean,

curlicues of breakers rising up out of nothing to smash

against the metamorphic bogs of northern Spain?

Which vowels can sound this crash of surf on coral reef?

O, A, U, the smell of the peat mixes a sot salt spray,

as an old poet from Compostela swims her flabby

barnyard piglets out amidst the thrall and pull

we'll never imagine having to succumb to.

The rock called O'Centolo marks the remains

beyond the flat lands of Columbus, and the shadow

of the jaded crow keeps soaring seaward.

© 1987