Author’s Note: We visited Robert and Eva in Spain during his brave, final battle with cancer. He had great insights for us concerning the big events taking place in his adopted land.
for the memory of Robert Greenway,
Headed for the Alicante station
on a stretch of EU highway no one drives,
we open the lunch bag packed by Eva
containing slices of sesame rye,
olives, chunks of queso manchego,
almonds, an empanada, still warm.
Our train stops in Valencia, accelerates
through orange groves, past irrigation trenches.
Each holds a narrow gloss of water,
mirrors a fragment of the sky.
Blocks of quartz stacked by the tracks
shatter sunlight into green, translucent shards.
From before we left, the image of a lizard
streaks across the shoulder of the pool
and leaves a blur upon the sunbaked day,
a hazel stain on alabaster. Surrounded by cactus,
high above the seaside calamari stands,
stucco walls trace sharpened pencil lines
against a perfect blue, a depth of sky.
In this land, all things are marked by demarcation, the clash
of elements at their edges. But in the stucco house—
darkness. Robert will sleep all afternoon,
or try to. Wake from a double-dose—
chemo, radiation—gulp the air he needs
to entertain his friends with talk
about events in Barcelona, about the red and yellow
ribbons of Valle de los Caídos, where the tyrant
lies buried, will not always be. His face lights
to an hour’s conversation for words
are the reward for what he lives through,
a run of words he chisels into time, our lasting stone.
Surrounded by parched olive groves
and ragged rows of pomegranate, we talk
past sundown, when a soft breeze comes to us
flowing from a range of bluffs down to the sea,
a gray mirage below a gauzy sky.
We watch a spume climb from the waves
into a haze, an opal mix with no horizon line.
No past or future. The present is a veil of clouds,
an envelope for hearts to beat within.
Twilight. In the corner of an eye,
the pain leaks back.
We are prepared to tiptoe from the house
and let him sleep, but he wakes in the afternoon
and follows us to where the sun beats down
upon the cobbles. With Eva bracing him,
he stands before a purple bougainvillea,
grins into the future, waves.
David Salner, from Delaware, has worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, longshoreman, teacher, baseball usher, and librarian. Honored by nine Pushcart Prize nominations, including for “Leaving Spain,” his poetry appears in recent issues of Delmarva Review, Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, Salmagundi, River Styx, Beloit Poetry Journal, and many other magazines. His fourth poetry collection is The Stillness of Certain Valleys (Broadstone Books, 2019). Salner has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. A novel about the workers building the Holland Tunnel is due in March. Website: www.DSalner.wix.com.
Delmarva Review is an independent literary journal publishing the best of new poetry and prose selected from thousands of submissions annually. Its 13th edition publishes new work by 64 authors, including David Salner and Sue Ellen Thompson. It receives partial financial support from a Talbot County Arts Council grant with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Readers can buy copies from specialty booksellers like Mystery Loves Company, in Oxford, or from Amazon.com and other online booksellers. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org.
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