Backstreets

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Backstreets

You go from the beaches turn away from the waters
and walk with your warder through this catholic prison,
through the streets of this city where innocents die
and the guilty confess to pitiless crimes
in hide-bound confessionals of dark white-washed churches
that strut in the streets and the heart-breaking alleys
with washing at windows and black widows waving
as you consciously wander through past sins and problems
forgetting remembering the squares with their fountains
with their saints and their statues in cold heartless marble,
with swords without edges and tongues sharp as grass
that cuts you with silence as it slips through your fingers
whilst bitter and bleeding you wander through labyrinths
of meaningless shortcuts leading to churches
and stationary statues that threaten with footsteps
until you come out at last to the light and the sea 

Commentary:
Another Golden Oldie, this time from my poetry book Broken Ghosts, published by Goose Lane (Fredericton, 1986). It dates from time spent in Spain (1969-1971) and recalls walking in tiny seaside towns along the north coast (Cantabria) without being specific to any single place, although Castro Urdiales, Comillas, Laredo, Santander, and Zarauz all conjure up similar visions and memories. A single sentence, the poem can be read in one breathless breath.

 

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