I escape at midnight, from Parc del Fòrum,
feet swollen in black Converse, taxis red-lit.
Follow a diagonal line to the man-made shore,
where concrete steals angles and torn flags flutter
the alleyways in hidden Barceloneta.
Sun grazed barrio, former isla.
Kissed by the filthy Besòs river.
The air is cuttlefish and guava, pimentón bomba.
Crimson sangria and pitch ink purple baby squid.
The blood burst of tendons softened with lemon.
As the city sweeps downhill from Tibidabo
to marble tables on scuffed sidewalks,
counter bars with amber panes invite me
to devour; salt cod croquetas and fried quail eggs,
honey glazed chorizo slick with oil.
Artichokes firm to touch in pale golden coats.
I squeeze my pregnant belly into a gap beside the door,
beckon the waiter in white jacket and tie.
Shout my order above the din of old men,
age-withered pescadors, speaking Catalan.
Language meant only for each other.
Not for me.
I was always a tourist in Barcelona
lived in cramped flats on airless alleys,
balconies festooned with clothes like garlands.
Skated the boardwalk, drank under sand sculptures.
I was here before, a life ago, less jaded.
Now, clear-headed, I doze on a rooftop terrace.
Hand rested on taut stretched stomach skin.
Now, I pound pavements at midday instead of night.
Floored by the heat. Full, yet hollow with exhaustion.
Rage stifled at ill-timed nausea at calendars.
People die from isolation, but it can also be a choice.
Those who hemmed me in departed,
in a way that you will never do.
You, who shares this body, who sends
me outside disorientated. Going left when
before it always felt right.
This time around I take no artful shots
of graffitied walls, the scaffolded Sagrada Família.
An ice-frosted wine glass at la bocqueria.
Glistening tomatoes wrinkled by the sun.
With my camera stashed, a moped chained
to pistachio coloured railings goes unrecorded.
The instant fixes of my blithe twenties forever altered.
For I am too tired for tourism, for music at one a.m.
For fitting in.
Today I receive the city’s gastronomic gifts
in quiet company, stop to savour each taste,
to bathe in its generous light.
Dinner at Musée Baccarat, Paris, 2003
Caught between a mirror and a crystal cage.
Nitro-charged, chagrin ablaze. With a glimpse
of life ahead—hearts cruel, tempers teenage.
I washed the rock salt from my wounds.
We worshipped a culinary liturgy. Slippery with
devotion. Measured love in bites, in royal status.
Glowed like the Princesses de Kermancy, slick
and luminous on their hammered silver platter.
I was small in that chair of chaotic proportions,
where you served humility as amuse-bouche.
Nursed desire to start anew, leave no imprint
on the Champagne glass, no mark of truth.
Entrées cleared, linen scraped clean, I was alone.
Framed the exquisite silvering, the tunnelled view.
Tasted bitter regret. At the table, decorum shed,
words had spilled forth to stain us both red.
I took a breath and made a plan to swallow it all.
Cajoled by fog in the16th arrondissement,
we went blindly into winter’s night. Baby rabbits
to slaughter, unblinking, in a fractured crystal glare.
The Russians buy their oranges from Morocco now,
since the ban on Poland’s crop.
It’s not politics, they say, but pesticides.
Posing with cardboard-cutout Putins, the Polish
stand defiant, middle fingers raised
chant; How d’you like them apples?
Italy is incensed by South Africa’s citrus x sinensus.
Inferior fruit! Masquerading as Sicily’s regal sanguinello!
Don’t underestimate the significance,
men sacrificed lives for less than the stealthy vine.
Cuttings smuggled in hessian sacks, sharp pins poised
to pierce land, propagate ancient familial lines at any cost.
I always disliked the bloody burst of pips from lucent flesh.
Hands turned to sticky magnets for lint. Lips stung by bitter pith.
There is nothing enigmatic about the skin, at least.
As I stand against a terracotta wall in Cannes
I note its pigment everywhere, in the honeymoon sunset grid,
the tart spritz of a popular poolside apéritif
and question why the French dropped the pomme from d’orenge,
desirious of a fruit more exotic than Adam’s apple.
Imagine the price paid for a waxen cargo wrapped in muslin cloaks.
Think of how the world stills goes to war with food.
Lucy Holme is originally from Kent in the UK and has a BA (hons) in English Literature and Language from Manchester University. She moved to Cork City in 2013 where she lives with her husband and three small children. Since May 2020 her work has been featured in Ó Bhéal XIV, Poethead, La Piccioletta barca, Burnt Breakfast, Porridge and Dreich and most recently in Opia Lit, One Hand Clapping, and The Honest Ulsterman. She has work forthcoming in The Liminal Review, Wrongdoing, Crossways, Tír na Nóg, and the Hecate anthology Birth.