NOT A PRAYER
by Diana Anhalt
For Ethel Figueroa, the Librarian, My Heroine,
who lets me hide in the library— closed for recess—
when girls in patent leather, red ribbons tied to braids,
scoff at my orthopedic shoes, my limping Spanish.
Behind the fiction shelves, wedged into a corner,
I inhale the isolation, smell of ink on paper.
My hands caress the spines, riffle through
the pages. I read. Gorge myself on English. Beneath
the thrumming of a ceiling fan dust quivers
in spaces between books, and from the yard
a gaggle of voices ¡Tira la pelota, idiota! A mi me toca—
Asoftball thuds against a window and the sound
of a lawn mower enters through an open door. I lift my eyes,
then return to that place where, safe with Mary Lennox,
our hands still caked in soil, we till her Secret Garden,
fragrance of freshly cut grass lodged in our lungs.
Not a Prayer
—To Mauricio 1936-2016
I miss our talks, the sound of my name
on your Spanish speaking tongue, our routine
good nights—a kiss followed by a kick
in the shins sending me back to the cold side
of our bed. I need to tell you how Greta,
who spurned our friendship for thirty years,
sent me a three page letter mourning your loss.
After you died your daughter spied your pants
hung from a chair, seized the belt, wrapped
it twice around her waist and your son said:
Thank God she didn’t find his boxer shorts.
You’ll never learn that once you’d died
I recited the one Hebrew prayer I know.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech
haolam, Hamotzi lechem min haaretz,
only to be told it’s the blessing over bread.
On Sunday I take our usual stroll, discover
they’ve emptied the duck pond, watch mallards
paddle listlessly in the few remaining puddles,
any urge to fly drained out of them.
Party Line 1947
I listened in behind the grownups backs.
Rented a room in strangers’ lives,
stashed their words away—
So what did he expect when he married a shiksa?
Their voices kept me company:
Now that he’s no longer with me, his bathrobe means a lot ….
Filled countless hoursspent alone.
I swear I arrived by the nick of my teeth….as easy as pie.
You sneak round the back. A pause. Hold on. There’s someone there.
I slam down the phone,count to five hundred. Try again.
Did you remember to rotate the tires?
Nothing’s fattening till you eat it.
Back then, they nevercaught me snooping.
Such words were weightless. And who else cared to listen?
Wish you could smell my perfume… Promise you’ll never forget me?
Words coursed through the lines. I repeated them like prayers.
You’ll keep it secret? Cross your heart and hope to die?
Of course I would. And did.
When Natalie Rose, Who My Mother Chose
to Instruct Me on Sex, Took Me to Lunch
I ate up her words. She sunbathed topless
and when no one went braless, she did. Saves time.
Drove a sky blue Cadillac. Dyed her hair to match.
Was divorced two times by ’59 though no one else was.
Soon you’ll be on your own. You know about sex, dear?
Of course you do. And protection? Protection from what?
I nodded. Good, no reason to discuss it then.
Just remember, a stiff prick knows no conscience
and seduction’s spiked with sham, riddled
with land mines. Bet you know about that.
I do? And remember, bed sheet promises disappear
down the drain along with the laundry. Always
be sure to insist on a room. No back seat for you.
If you cheat now and then, choose a married man.
They’ve been around, are less likely to gab. Got that?
Okay. I’ll tell your mom you know exactly what to do.
Wait, before I forget, avoid the guys who question
your past, hog the mirror, carry a gun.
(With thanks to Alexis Rhone Fancher)
Spain Formally Buries Cervantes (Associated Press)
—Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 12, 2015
After 400 years they bury him—again—
in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.
They place a shiver of cloth, fistfuls of bone,
believed to be his, beneath a stone memorial
grander by far than the hovels and cells
where he went by many names—soldier,
slave, playwright, poet—un hijo de puta
to his foes. Amid military hoopla the mayor
of Madrid trumpets the dead man’s fame.
She places laurels on the tomb, then reads
the inscription: Time is brief, anguish grows,
hope declines. I carry life in spite of this beyond
the wish I have to live. At her side the Minister
of Public Works, horse shit on his shoes, grits
his teeth and mutters: Jodér! After 400 years—
he refuses to stay put. I told the planners—
no one listened…they should have dug a deeper hole.
This grave will never hold Miguel Cervantes.
Aboiut the Author:
Diana Anhalt lived most of her life in Mexico and is the author of A Gathering of Fugitives… (Archer Books) in addition to essays, short stories and book reviews in both English and Spanish, two chapbooks and a short poetry collection, “Because There Is No Return.” Her work has appeared previously in “The Atlanta Review,” “The Connecticut River Review,” and “Concho River Review.”