The following poem appears in our Fall 2012 Print Issue 21, and was awarded first prize in Tiferet’s 2012 Writing Contest.
The entire issue is available in Kindle format.
When the shuttle arrives at the old wooden door,
when her overpacked luggage bulges
with too many shoes,
with gringa lotions and books
she won’t have time to open,
when the teenage boy grins
after hauling the world up four flights of terra cotta steps
and she reaches her room with views
of Calle Canal and rooftops like pottery
clinging to early winter warmth,
it won’t be the earthy scent of red geraniums
outside her window or last night’s wood smoke
and kerosene that fills her lungs, but the freshly washed
white shirt of the baggage boy
neat as his perfect teeth,
the scent — part lather, part lavender —
that announces every stranger here.
She won’t call it innocence, though it comes close.
Closer is the lack of artifice,
the way she tries to lose her skin
by slipping into cotton,
the comfort of towels laundered in sunshine,
and if this country is not hers, if some
resent her pale flesh,
still the maids remember her each year
and bring extra towels that smell sweet
as a first kiss, rough as a night of too many sangrias
when bells of the Parroquia jangle the streets
like cast iron pans, and she believes every tourist is a burro
without a master, grazing on what it can,
pretending there is somewhere to belong.
LOIS P. JONES is host of “Poets Café” (KPFK, Los Angeles 90.7 fm), and co-produces the Monday poetry reading series at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, California with Alice Pero. She is the Poetry Editor of Kyoto Journal and a multiple Pushcart nominee. Lois has published in Tupelo Quarterly, Narrative Magazine, American Poetry Journal, The Nassau Review, Qarrtsiluni, Sierra Nevada Review, Tiferet Journal, Askew, Raven Chronicles, Antioch University’s Lunch Ticket and other journals in the U.S. and abroad. Her poems have won honors under Web Del Sol judges Kwame Dawes (Prairie Schooner), Fiona Sampson (Poetry Review) and others. New Yorker staff writer, Dana Goodyear selected “Ouija” as Poem of the Year in the 2010 competition sponsored by IBPC. She is the winner of the 2012 Tiferet Poetry Prize and the 2012 Liakoura Prize. She was long listed in the 2015 Poetry Review annual contest (UK).
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