Sevilla Trio

Jen Burke Anderson

I. Señor

 

The old man on the C3 bus examines me

with medical-grade curiosity,

with questions pure

as you can cut them, only

flecks of God and memory

dirtying the dose, questions

 

that thread out his eyes like burls

of cigarillo smoke across

lemon-lime go-go cervezería tiles,

like milk exploding down

through black coffee

 

in little glasses

on cracked marble tables.

 

His final spin cycle,

the downward-yanking catechism

sandpapering him from within, leaves me

safely behind the shop window

of Catholic desire

 

where I find myself sugaring 

into a pose I’ve never quite before:

one leg thrown over the other

one buttock rolled onto

wrists crossed at the knee

shoulder crimped to ear

lips pouting straight down the road.

 

It is Spain to be female and

fifty and looked at this way,

as though you are an 

antique spark now

younger than the future itself

 

and I wonder who she was,

Señor, why you see that year

in me now.

 

II. Love Train

 

On the Plaza de las Terecenas

— along the trails of speeding

Deliveroo scooters

 

under plastered

posters for co-work spaces

in the innovation zone —

 

schoolgirls still play choo-choo

with the sash of their mother’s

dress. Engine girl

takes the center

of the strand,

caboose girl the ends,

 

and in between all their friends

play café cars and carriages

shuffling in time in a giggly squiggle

 

around stands of men smoking

with heads together

down rivers of tables slaked

with dirty plates empty beer glasses

ashtrays, señoras in puffer jackets

and church skirts on folding chairs painted

with the names of the elders.

 

Engine girl hits the brakes: boom!

They pile up and fall over

howling, clutching

each other’s shoulders

like drunk men burdened

with each other’s joy

 

and the trees

and the church steps

and the birds and the sky

and the girlhood of early night.

 

 

III. Teatro Central

 

We were the incognito soul of the party,

two crashy Americans lacking

scarves or aspirational eyewear

 

swiping abandoned pint glasses

off tables and clutching them

to our guts, camouflaging 

against Seville’s intelligentsia.

Crept upstairs with a faked Euro-gait.

Checked out the installation,

 

the Global North

artist-statement esperanto:

contexto, feminista, interactiva, apropriación.

All employed to assassinate

a beloved Spanish arts icon.

 

Could you call it an achievement?

Outside, a worryingly warm February.  

Mud-bloodied Guadalquivír

night-gushing under the

white steel stab of

the Alamillo.

 

Weedy esplanades.

Crumbly concrete.

Studenty shrieks from the reeds.

 

We’re too young to say buenas noches,

too old to join them, the

boringly global party-armies

reimagining Europe’s citadels as

international-school franchises:

Mac stores in the monasteries.

Bacon sushi in the panaderías.

 

Are we any better?

I ask, as we turn back

to our hotel, our

candled casbah of

goddess cottons

tasseled canopies

jeweled sconces

carved ceilings

checkerboard floors

Moorish arches

tiled fountains trickling

in the atrium

 

— and that scent!

Dousing the memory somewhere

between cathedral incense and

teenage sex in a car!

 

I mean, we’re Americans.

We make any place worse just

by being here.

 

Give this place five more years.

(Switching my earrings, pencilling

the arches of my brows.) It’ll be

just like everywhere else.

(Lipstick. Killing the lights, 

addressing my streetlamped yellow

reflection.) The Lingvo Internacia has arrived!

It listens to Lana Del Rey

and only takes ApplePay.

 

Tickets the size of postage stamps slipped

down our sleeves, and off we go.

Calle San Luis, supermarkets,

zapaterías, a sidestreet, a dog, finally

a parlor black-lung hot and dark:

 

iron woman heelcrack

oilgush guitar slashing our walls

splashing our wills, screwing our

ears out, voodoo diamond

shriek-spikes the length of

madhouse halls

 

not even Periscoping kidbots can

dim this satanic spark, out!

out!

tonight!

cut!

exorcism

flows

 

with what absolute murder pipes

flaming earthcore up

to earth’s baking crust

dusts us all with

holy deathchills

 

and the necks

and the sweat

and the shoulder tatts

and the horns and tails of

 

black-blue light, the final

clack a guillotine blade

cleaving off a gulp

of silence

 

the gasp

just before

a spectacular fall.

 

                   —February 2020


About the Author

Jen Burke Anderson is a San Francisco writer whose creative nonfiction story “Daybreak Nation” placed honorable mention in 2020’s Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition. Her short story “Soul Survivor,” winner of the 2018 Sue Granzella Humor Prize, appeared in BULL: Men’s Fiction in autumn 2020. In spring 2021 she’ll be acting in her radio drama “Paper Thin” on KFJC 89.7fm.