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for Mark Strand
Beneath canopies of green, unionists marched doggedly
outside The Embassy. Their din was no match
for light lancing through leaves of madrone trees
lining the Paseo then flashing off glossy black Maybachs
skidding round a plaza like a monarch fleeing the paparazzi.
Your voice skipped and paused like a pencil.
Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly
then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. One learns
to cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners,
two blotched hands making wings of a daily paper
beside us between sips of café con leche, a demeanor
in short gentle as grand edifices along this boulevard.
Yet Guernica is down the street, and some windshields
wear a sinister face, sometimes two. Think Goya. Just south
of here, on the lower slopes of the Sierras, fields
of olive groves braid the land like a Moorish head, but
those sultans were kicked out long ago. In the lobby
of the Hotel Urban, I wait for a cab, my obedient rolling bag
like a pet beside me. I have loved again another city
but Madrid is yours: her caped olé’s, her bullish flag,
her glass pavilions and outdoor tables like a festival
of collaged laughter, our dark harbors finding level.
Major Jackson is the author of Roll Deep (W. W. Norton, 2015), Holding Company (W. W. Norton, 2010), Hoops (W. W. Norton, 2006), and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia, 2002).