Gershon Maller is a Melbourne based poet and editor. Poetry Collections: Night Breathing (1993) and Nights in the Gardens of Spain (2002). Cleaved by Light and This Tangle of Bones are in progress.
In 2003 Maller received a major grant from Arts Queensland for a multimedia collection of still-life poems set in Venice and Rome, performed at the Brisbane Writers Festival (2006). His work appears in Australia and the US.
A waiter in a café apron rests his
butt against the leathers of a Vespa
wedged between a Seat and a Peugeot
and the dumper bin of yesterdays filled
with empty bottles of Sangra del Torro,
blood for last night’s moon as it rose above
cliffs of conifers and impossible palaces
of stone, rose petals and water. Spilling
its tables like coins up and down the street
the plaza runs between leafy elms and fountains
where stray dogs drink, and across to the wall
by the river. Waiters glide in and out
of tables spinning trays of sherry, Sangria
and olives. Soon, the blood orange will
drop its fruit from a tree, up on the hill
where the city wall stood, and sink behind
the horizon leaving battlements glowing
in furnaces of apricot clay; and the moon
will rise over the valley and river gorge
and into a mist of stars. Soon, the chairs will be
stacked and put away; tonight, everyone will
drink inside to escape the chill of catacombs
which rises from the river to stiffen joints
and loosen coughs; tapas bars line the street
casting light oily with kitchen onto cobblestone
shadows. The potato woman will be there
setting up her stall and gallon drum to roast
King Edwards; her fingers are buttered
with grime seeped into her pores, fingernails
and cheeks and it rattles up the back of her
throat from her chest in gatling gun Spanish:
sensenta y seis; she pockets the coins in her apron;
it once was green, the kind gypsy women wear
to carry posies of Rosemary; they hold bunches
out to you in front of their heavy breasts, smile
gold capped teeth, and trace the script in the palm
of your hand with fingernails of scalpels.
Salsa sways her hips along the street.
Cars revel in and out of dancers; a fight
breaks out with kickboxing and karate leaps,
perfect as a game; the crowd recedes
until one camarada retreats, rescued by
Corolla. It is midnight in Granada.
The moon is full and smells of lemon.
The sky was once Moroccan here.
It blew across from Barbery one day
ripe with scent of panther, gazelle
and lion. On a dusty afternoon its
breath settles on the hills where salt
bushes cling to rocks and scattered
goats nibble grass, stubborn as bent trees.
There is a sense of absence, a longing
sometimes sung, calling you back
to the small death heard in the waterfall
of castanets or climax of canto. Limestone
cliffs along Sacramento are honey-combed
with empty caves gaping in the afternoon—
the toothless mouths of men.
Everywhere the dead and wounded stare
out from ruin. A crumbling stump
of bridge arch spans air but not the river.
At El Banuelo, you stoop under a lintel
that once measured naked centurions.
Cameras will not expose them. The scent
of men still lingers in the walls; the blue-
stone floor worn smooth as foreskin.
You drift through the perfumes
of the Alhambra, palaces of water
and stone; light reflected from the snow-
capped mountain is too white. The sky
is a blue crow arching its wings.
High in these palaces of memory all
of Abraham’s children looked to Solomon’s
lost paradise in Cordoba. Sephardim
and Mujahadin patiently erasing the poems
of the other, replacing each stone one at a time
cutting their inscriptions into the Harem’s
filigree walls and courtyard of Hebraic Lions.
Written in water at its zenith, epitaphs
engraved to Allah praise their own demise.
Time is suspended. You pass footings
and cellars of houses in the Red Palace
that waits never to be built. Stone refuses
to melt under the unrelenting sun. A bee
in a rosebud gathering pollen never leaves
or arrives. A bead of jasmine behind your
eyes, rolls to the back of your tongue.
Poetry in this post: © Gershon Maller
Published with the permission of Gershon Maller