The Black Shawled Widows of Castillay Leon
step from clamorous hives of tenement houses
and walk the grafted sycamore alameda,
two slow, dark seasons of belief.
They’ve come out for the night’s paseo,
pulling their market carts, question-stooped, cobbled hand in hand,
with bread for the pigeons still, and spit for the bust of Franco.
They walk to the stork-priested cathedral,
and I’ve seen what walks behind them.
I no longer expect to see the winged heads
of powdered angel babies, rose-cheeked and corpulent,
hovering high above the traceries, pulling golden chains.
Nor do I wait for an immaculate wind
to stir a palette of silver clouds into a thunder annunciation.
and gather the widows up
into all of light’s vocabulary.
At last, it should it rise above the plague
of mopeds and florid tourists of the coin-operated world,
ascend in some infinite direction
up where the night-summoned stars pulse and parry.
But let it drift back down and cover the tombs
that faintly read aqui espero—
though the rest is worn away.
Let it settle back on its foundations,
bringing back the impassioned widows,
at that dawn moment when objects drift back into themselves,
and the great rose window returns whatever light the stars have tithed.
“The Black Shawled Widows of Castillay Leon” first appeared in The Southern Review, vol. 39, p.113, 2003.