Barcelona has an active and abundant bird population. Birds are important in an urban environment. They add to the soundtrack of the city. And as often happens, a moment on my walk to work brought me to a standstill. Magpies are so loud!
The birds dispute their breakfast
in the bare December trees.
One worm between the two of them,
and both of them are thieves.
The magpie is a foulmouthed sort,
be glad you don’t speak Bird!
For I hesitate to translate
the things I overheard.
Poor Mr. Worm, in politics,
leans neither left nor right.
Unfortunately, the magpies do.
It was a gruesome sight.
On a trip this summer, I had the chance to admire a collection of quilts. The technique of quilting actually requires a lot of pre-planning, design and calculation – very rational stuff. But the visual result can be wild and dizzying, as the colors play off each other and invariably the whole is somehow greater than its parts, something that the quilter must see before the quilt exists. Back home, I began a series of quilt designs on my iPad, and walking to work one morning, the first two lines of this poem came to me.
Starry, starry night
We love the works of madmen
for saying what we don’t dare:
that Life’s a swollen yellow room,
with a pair of crooked chairs,
a narrow bed where restless dreams
have led our hearts astray.
How brave! The man who looked outside
before the break of day
and saw the quilted sky of stars
turned into ferris wheels!
He gave such beauty through his pain.
The art of madmen heals.
The PSL has been silent for quite a while. Circumstances regarding the day job eliminated the necessary contact with the sidewalk. If I wanted to walk, my choices were to make circles around a parking lot, or pace back and forth along a stretch of industrial park road which dead ends in a vacant lot scattered with construction debris. Then one day, as the end of my sojourn there was drawing to a close, a line came to me in the middle of my pacing: What if i kept on walking? The thing about a void is that it eventually sucks you in.
What if I kept on walking?
What if I kept on walking,
and never turned around?
What if I kept on walking,
and I was never found?
"What if I kept on walking?"
I kind of like the sound.
No need for an objective,
no dream, no special cause.
My journey simple evidence
of one of Nature's laws:
an object once in motion;
no obstacle, no pause.
Another poem that started with the glimpse of a leg of a person standing next to me at a stop light. Nothing special, just a tattoo. And that made me think, how sad! Why isn’t a tattoo special? It’s because of the overkill!
If you walk around Barcelona, you will see lots of people with tattoos. Young/ old/ fat/ thin/ male/ female. At the beaches on the Costa Brava, you can probably see more ink on skin than bathing suits! A trip to the Balearic islands isn’t complete unless you come back with a tattoo! For me, the atavistic charm of bodyart disappeared when it became just another form of merchandise, part of the decor of summer beer commercials on TV.
The dragon wraps around her leg like Druid art of old. A decision on an island made when she was young and bold.
“Let’s be different!” they all said; so each one did the same. Now time has turned youth’s outré badge to a sagging faded stain.
Until recently, my morning walk to work led me to the doors of a well-reputed business school. Usually I focussed on the beautiful gardens and buildings, as well as the people walking by. Almost every day I saw something worth writing about, something beautiful or curious. However, Barcelona, like any city, has a darker side.
The morning I saw a man digging through the garbage bins located practically at the doors of the school, the irony gave me this:
The Business School
Dumpster diving at the business school, now that’s a sight to see! His family’s going hungry, but he’s got a fine degree.
He did just what they told him and he doesn’t understand why the speculation failed him when he bought up all that land.
It was easy! No one mentioned he was trafficking with air. He thought that he was clever! now he’s closer to despair.
He lives near his alma mater until the bank calls in the loan. That could happen any day now. He could even lose his home!
He hopes that no one sees him as he’s sorting through the trash. He doesn’t want his kids to know that they’re completely out of cash.
He bought into a system that turned out to be a lie. You must admire his dignity. he’s still wearing a tie.
This poem, like others, was inspired by Barcelona’s lovely vegetation. I was walking home from work at about 8 p.m. and found myself enveloped in a heady fragrance that reminded me of my grandmother.
I walk through curtains of jasmine.
It smells like movie stars...
the ones who wore those négligées,
and winked at men in bars.
A fragrance out of fashion,
in close quarters, it's too sweet.
But in a city on an evening
in the summer, it's a treat.
First post in Catalan! This one goes out to those who too often remain nameless. Any native Catalan speaker is more than welcome to correct errors!
Compartint la vella manta
Compartint la vella manta és amor, al meu parer. Encara que siguin pobres i visquin al carrer.
La mare els coneixia, “Són bona gent amb mala sort.” Sovint és el que passa amb la gent que ve de l’hort.
La ciutat els menja l’esperit i els calés. No em preguntis pels cognoms. Són en Joan i na Roser.
In Barcelona, at any moment, in any neighborhood, you can be surprised by a gem of modernist architecture. The Casa Muleyafid, designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1914, is one I pass every morning. The Consulate of Mexico is currently the lucky tenant of this whimsical structure. Not only do they have a great building, they have somebody who likes flowers. I know, because you can see a pot of tall, gracious orchids through one of windows.
Orchids in the Consulate
The orchids in the Consulate have grown on foreign soil. Carefree, you’ll never see them spin, and neither do they toil.
I wonder if a diplomat from some greener distant place was homesick when she planted them? Or perhaps it was a case of protocol, as flowers are known to make amends in conflicts small and great.
Flowers would be my policy if I were head of state.
They walk towards you blindly, often stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, completely oblivious to the other pedestrians. Ear plugs in, they see only a tiny device they hold in their hands, tapping it hesitantly or in rapid sequence. Addicted to a parallel universe, deaf to traffic and bird calls, blind to sunshine and landscape, dumping personal information into the grand database.
I’ll be generous; I’ll suggest a business model.
Monetize your life
Monetize your life! Put advertisements on your face! Crowdsource pursuit of pleasure, join the social media race.
Be the first entrepreneur whose business is yourself! Get some money for your data, you’ll be on the path to wealth.
Remember this my Facebook friend, what you give away for free is a product bought and sold by some other company.
So beat the others to it! Don’t be shy, (too late for that). Just turn the tables, join the game it’s only tit for tat.
In Barcelona, you see a lot of people walking dogs, and something made me take note of an interesting dog-human pair I passed yesterday. The dog was a low-slung dachshund-beagle looking thing, and the man holding the leash walked with the slow, jerky steps of someone with reconstructed hips or legs. Neither of them was in a hurry. I thought he was a pretty lucky guy.
Dog walks man!
The dog is out to walk the man. He needs his exercise. (The man that is, he’d never leave the sofa otherwise.)
They’ve known each other long and well. It used to be the man who organized the outings to the local pipi-can.
The dog now fetches other things than what his master throws — medications, the remote control …– It’s amazing how he knows his master’s needs, no words and no command.
But if you’ve ever had a dog I think you’ll understand.
Dedicated to 3 special dogs: Penny, Brandy, and Lady
vocabulary: In an attempt to toilet train dog-owners, Barcelona city planners came up with the idea of establishing officially designated dog pooping areas in parks, and coined them “pipi-cans” (‘can’ = dog).